Everything you need to know about bowel cancer

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Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia. It develops in the inner lining of the bowel with growths called polyps which can become invasive if undetected.

Here is what you should know about bowel cancer from the home doctor experts at House Call Doctor.

Symptoms

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • Blood in stool
  • Thin bowel movements
  • Change in bowel habit with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
  • Abdominal pain, bloating or cramping
  • Anal or rectal pain
  • Lumps in the anus or rectum
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained anaemia.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, House Call Doctor experts recommend you contact your GP as soon as possible.

Causes

There are some factors that increase your risk of bowel cancer. These include:

  • Inherited genetic risk and family history
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Polyps (growths on the inner lining of the bowel)
  • High red meat consumption
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High alcohol consumption

Diagnosis

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is offered free to people between 50 and 74 years of age. It is a non-invasive test for blood in the faeces that can be done at home. Other tests used to diagnose bowel cancer include:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT or MRI scan
  • PET scan

Treatment

There are a number of treatment options for bowel cancer. These include:

  • Surgery: this is the main treatment method, where all or part of the colon is removed
  • Radiotherapy: this is often used before surgery for locally advanced rectal cancer and can be used in combination with chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Treatment team and palliative care for advanced bowel cancer.

You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, limiting consumption of red meat and maintaining a healthy body weight.