Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is an annual initiative of Bowel Cancer Australia and runs throughout the month of June.
The aim is to raise public awareness of a disease that claims the lives of almost 80 Australians every single week – that’s 4071 Australians every year, including 213 people under the age of 50. But as Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, it’s important to stay aware all year round.
Bowel cancer is the third most common type of newly-diagnosed cancer in Australia, affecting both men and women almost equally. It is Australia's second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. Lives can be saved through early detection, as bowel cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early.
The major bowel cancer risk factors for both men and women include: age; risk rises sharply and progressively from the age of 50; any family history of bowel cancer or any personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or the breast; any history of polyps in the colon or a history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Be on the lookout for the common symptoms of bowel cancer that can include any recent and persistent changes in your bowel habits, a change in the appearance of bowel movements, any blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.
If you suffer from frequent gas pain or cramps or a feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely, this could also be a sign, as well as unexplained anaemia or any abdominal pain or swelling.
Remember that not everyone will experience symptoms, particularly in the early stages of bowel cancer. When diagnosed early, 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated. Symptoms, such as blood in the stool or rectal bleeding, should never be ignored. Bowel Cancer Australia suggests that awareness and action on the following offers the best hope of reducing the number of Australians who die each year from bowel cancer:
You can further reduce your risk of bowel cancer by trying your best to lead a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. Eat a diet full of fruit and vegetables, quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. Always be on the look out for any changes and report them immediately to your doctor.
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