June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, a Bowel Cancer Australia initiative to raise awareness of Australia’s second deadliest cancer and raise funds for the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and the best care for everyone affected by bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer claims the lives of 103 Australians every week (5,375 people a year) – but it’s one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early.
While the risk of bowel cancer increases significantly with age, the disease doesn’t discriminate, affecting men and women, young and old.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can affect any part of the large bowel (colon) or rectum; it may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer is located. The colon and rectum together are known as the large bowel.
Tips to help beat bowel cancer:
It is recommended that people aged 50 and over who do not have a family or personal history of bowel cancer, or an inherited gene mutation, should get screened for bowel cancer every 1 to 2 years. People from families with bowel cancer need extra testing to find bowel cancer early. This includes having a colonoscopy every five years.
Quit smoking and minimise booze
Evidence reveals quitting smoking, abstaining from or limiting alcohol consumption, and eating foods containing dietary fibre are all beneficial.
Eat a healthy high-fibre diet
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, reducing saturated fats (in animal products, processed foods and takeaway). There is also strong evidence the eating fibre can help prevent bowel cancer by reducing the risk of problems such as constipation and inflammation of the bowel wall. National guidelines recommend 2 serves of fruits, 5 serves of vegetables, and wholegrain foods every day.
Reduce consumption of red and processed meat
Research has shown a moderate effect of red meat in increasing risk of bowel cancer, especially with processed meat. Charring of meat is best avoided.
Watch your weight
Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity have also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, but not rectal cancer.
People who are more physically active before a bowel cancer diagnosis are less likely to die from the disease than those who are less active.
Know your family history
Heredity (the genetic transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring) plays a big role in bowel cancer; up to 20% of people who develop bowel cancer have a relative with the disease. Find out if your relatives had bowel cancer or polyps (growths in the colon or rectum) that can be precursors of the disease. Also find out how old they were when they were diagnosed.
If you think you have a family history of bowel cancer or an inherited gene mutation, you should make an appointment with your GP to talk about your own risk. Don’t delay, book an appointment today!