In its early stages bowel cancer often has no obvious symptoms; however, any of the following may be suggestive of bowel cancer:
- Persistent change in bowel habit (looser more diarrhoea-like bowel movements, constipation, or smaller more frequent bowel movements)
- Change in appearance of bowel movements
- Blood in the bowel movement or rectal bleeding
- Unexplained tiredness, weakness or weight loss
- Abdominal pain, especially if severe
- A lump or pain in the rectum or anus
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain.
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely.
Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bowel cancer. Other medical conditions, some foods and certain medicines can also cause these changes. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, don’t delay in talking to your GP about them because early detection could save your life. No matter your age, you are never “too young” to have bowel cancer.
Most men who develop bowel cancer have no family history of the disease. However, having a relative, especially an immediate family member such as a parent, brother, sister or child with bowel cancer can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.
For example, if either of your parents were diagnosed with bowel cancer before age 55 you would be considered to have a moderate bowel cancer risk. If you have three close relatives diagnosed with bowel cancer at any age, you would be considered to have a high bowel cancer risk. In both examples, it is advisable to see your GP for individual advice about bowel cancer surveillance or screening.
Screening & Surveillance
Bowel Cancer Australia recommends participating in screening appropriate to your personal level of risk. For people at average risk of bowel cancer, medical guidelines recommend screening using a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every 2 years from age 50.
However, if you have one relative diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 55 years or older, screening should be considered every 2 years from age 45. Regular surveillance may be recommended by a specialist for people with a family or personal history of bowel cancer and/or if they are considered to have a high bowel cancer risk.
Diet & Lifestyle
Choices you make related to diet, lifestyle, screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk. For the latest information on modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer – including consumption of red and processed meat, alcohol, fruits and vegetables, fibre and engagement in physical activity – download this free resource – Modifiable Risk Factors – Understanding Bowel Cancer.
Exercise Physiology is a great way to reduce your risk of bowel cancer and other health conditions. To find out more, book a time with our Accredited Exercise Physiologist Marissa Hoey.