Bowel Cancer kills 101 people each week in Australia. It is our second most deadly cancer. This month, we discuss how your diet and lifestyle can impact the chances of bowel cancer.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer or colorectal cancer are cells that mutate in your intestinal tract causing a tumour. The most common types of bowel cancer are adenocarcinomas. Other types include squamous cell cancers that develop inside the skin-like cells of the bowel lining; carcinoid tumours, sarcomas and lymphomas.
There are four stages of bowel cancer:
Stage 1: Located in the bowel wall
Stage 2: Grown to the outer surface of the bowel wall
Stage 3: Present in the lymph nodes near the bowel
Stage 4: The cancer has metastasised, spreading to other organs such as the lungs or liver.
90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if detected early
More information can be found on the Bowel Cancer Australia website.
Certain risk factors contribute to the development of bowel cancer. These include:
- An unbalanced diet of more red or processed meat than other types of protein
- Genetics: family history of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can increase your chances of developing bowel cancer. This also includes a family history of bowel cancer or polyps. Sadly, it has been found that having any other type of cancer in your family can also be a risk factor.
- Genetic disorders: including FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis) and Lynch Syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer)
- Obesity or high BMI
- High alcohol consumption
- Being over the age of 50
Preventing bowel cancer
- Ensuring you have a balanced and high in fibre diet.
- Exercise daily
- Limit your consumption of alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Use the free government bowel cancer screening program every 2 years if you are over the age of 50.
How can bowel cancer be diagnosed?
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) in Australia is free for people over the age of 50. It is a non-invasive test called the faecal occult blood test (FOBT), which detects the presence of blood in stool. For people with a familial history or genetic risk of developing bowel cancer; or those who receive a positive result from a FOBT, a colonoscopy is required. A colonoscopy involves the use of an endoscope to view the ling of the bowel and is performed under anaesthetic.
For people at risk of developing bowel cancer, the Australian medical guidelines recommend screening every two years if you are between 50-74 years of age. The guidelines also state that GPs can provide screening tests for people aged 45-49 who request it.
If you would like to book a screening test or discuss your risk factors for bowel cancer, book an appointment with one of our GPs today.