Bowel Cancer

Information about Bowel Cancer

What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) affects the large bowel (colon) and rectum. It is one of the most common types of cancer in Australia.

How does Bowel Cancer form?
Most bowel cancers form from small growths or “polyps” in the large bowel or rectum. Over time some polyps can slowly progress to form cancer. Removal of these polyps at an early stage can prevent cancer. This is why screening is important (see below).

What are the symptoms of Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer may not cause symptoms during the early stages. The common symptoms of bowel cancer can include: iron deficiency, blood in the bowel motions, change in bowel habit, abdominal discomfort, persistent lethargy, or weight loss.

What tests are available for Bowel Cancer screening?
Screening can help identify bowel cancer at an early and potentially curable stage. Bowel cancer screening may initially include a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), which can be performed at home, and subsequently sent to the pathology laboratory for analysis. A colonoscopy may also be recommended.

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?
The Australian Government introduced the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2008. By 2020, all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years of age will be offered free screening every two years. This means about 4 million Australians will be invited to screen each year. It is anticipated that 12,000 cases of suspected or proven bowel cancer will be detected with this programme yearly.

Screening may be recommended at an earlier age if the risk of colon cancer is higher. This can include people with a family history of bowel cancer or multiple polyps. Your doctor can provide you with more advice on your risk of bowel cancer, and the most appropriate age for screening.

Where I can more information?

Contact GastroNorth

Cancer helpline – 13 11 20