Australians are very familiar with cancers unfortunately and bowel cancer is the second highest form. It affects more than 14,200 Australians annually and more than 4,000 die every year from it. From age 50, the risk of bowel cancer increases to 1 in 100, making screening and prevention crucial.
The majority of bowel cancer begins as a polyp, which is a benign growth in the colon. From polyp to cancer it generally takes 7-15 years, giving a significant time opportunity for diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, if caught early, the majority of cancerous polyps are easily removed and little, if any ongoing treatment is required. However if left untreated – or undiagnosed, the consequences can be considerable, with the more extreme being bowel removal or worse, death.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (NBCSP) uses a test (FOBT) to detect microscopic amounts of blood in the stool, which can be accessed through your doctor/GP, Pharmacist or from the Bowel Cancer Australia Organisation.
Bowel Cancer Australia recommends:
- From age 50: faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every 2 years
- From age 45: (FIT) every 2 years if you have one relative diagnosed with bowel cancer from 55
Some of the common symptoms that bowel cancer can create are:
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Blood test showing iron deficiency – with or without drop in haemoglobin
- Positive FOBT
Depending on what stage you are at, colonoscopy may be done as a preventative measure to visually inspect the bowel to ensure there are no polyps or cancers. Prevention is always best for any condition, however this is especially the case with bowel cancer as it can be fatal.
In the case where a cancer is diagnosed – or a polyp is found on an initial colonoscopy, removal will be the likely action taken. In the case of more advanced cancers, other treatments may also be required.
Preparation for a procedure is key, as some preparation can start up to 7 days prior. During your consultation, our specialists will explain what preparations you require for your procedure and also advise you about your medication (if you take any). For full details and downloads, please refer to: