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Bowel Cancer Awareness


Bowel Cancer (aka colorectal cancer) is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. Over 15000 people are diagnosed in Australia each year. The risk of being diagnosed by age 85, is 1 in 16 for women and 1 in 11 for men. [1]


Like most chronic disease, lifestyle is a major factor in reducing the risk of bowel cancer. Insufficient dietary fibre and excess consumption of red and processed meats are each thought to be responsible for 17.6% of Bowel Cancers in the population. Other factors include excess alcohol (9.0%), obesity (9.0%), smoking (6.4%) and inadequate physical activity (4.8%) [2].

The message here is to: Enjoy more fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains in the diet. Avoid processed meats and reduce red meat. Enjoy more exercise and less alcohol and tobacco.


Screening for bowel cancer has been demonstrated to reduce deaths by about 1/3 [3]. This is because cancers, and pre-cancerous growths, are more easily treated with better outcomes than more advanced cancers. The 5-year survival rate is 90% for localised disease, 71% for regional disease and drops to 14% for widespread disease. [4]

The current recommendation is that people at average risk (95% of the population) have faecal occult blood testing each 2 years from the age 50 to 74. The test kits usually arrive by post as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. If the kit doesn’t arrive, or it is damaged, please see your friendly local GP who can refer you for a screening test.

If there is a history of bowel cancer in your family, please discuss screening with your GP as different protocols apply for those at higher risk.


Finally, although screening is an important way to reduce cancer in the community, it doesn’t necessarily detect every Bowel Cancer. It is important that any symptoms of bowel cancer be followed up, even if the screening test was normal a month before.

If you develop: Blood in your stools; Persistent and unusual change in bowel habit lasting more than 2 weeks; Persistent or unusual abdominal pain; Unexpected weight loss or loss of appetite or symptoms of anaemia, please see your friendly local GP.

For more information please follow this link:

[1] Cancer Council of Australia. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: .[Accessed 20/5/2019]

[2] Cancer Council of Australia. 2017. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20/5/2019]

[3] Australian Doctor. 2017. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20/5/2019]

[4] American Cancer Society. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20/5/2019]

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