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Act on bowel cancer

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While Australia continues to have among the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, only two in five eligible people are participating in the Australian Government’s lifesaving National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), according to the program’s 2017 monitoring report*.

“Bowel cancer is predicted to be the second most common cause of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia in 2017, yet a majority of people eligible for the program are not taking up the opportunity to participate, “ said Cancer Australia CEO, Dr Helen Zorbas.

“This is particularly concerning in light of increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with and dying from bowel cancer, when we know that bowel cancer screening can prevent or find cancer early when it can be successfully treated. If detected at the earliest stage, the 5 year survival rate for bowel cancer is 93%,” Dr Zorbas said.

Bowel cancer incidence is increasing, with 16,682 people (9,127 men and 7,555 women) expected to be diagnosed in 2017, compared to 6,986 in 1982. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with, and die, from bowel cancer, and they are also less likely than women to participate in bowel cancer screening.

Most bowel cancers are thought to develop from non-malignant growths on the wall of the bowel called adenomas. These benign growths have the potential to become cancerous, and their removal lowers the risk of future bowel cancers. One in 8 participants who were recalled for assessment through the NBCSP were diagnosed with adenomas.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program invites eligible people aged 50 – 74 to screen for bowel cancer using a free, simple test at home.

“When you receive your kit in the mail, don’t hide it in the bottom drawer, instead make it a priority. Complete the simple test and put it in the post – it could save your life,” Dr Zorbas said.

Modifiable lifestyle risk factors for bowel cancer include overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, inadequate dietary fibre, high intake of some foods such as processed meat, high alcohol consumption and smoking. Other risk factors include a personal history of bowel polyps and family history of bowel cancer.

“Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and people of all ages can take action to reduce their risk,” said Dr Zorbas.

“It’s also important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer. These include bleeding from the rectum, anaemia, changes in bowel habit, abdominal pain or cramping, bloating, weight loss and unexplained tiredness or fatigue.”

People with a family history should see their doctor for an assessment of risk and advice about management options.

For more information about the National Bowel Screening Program, visit or call 1800 118 868.

Visit for information about bowel cancer. Visit Check Your Cancer Risk to learn simple steps to reduce your risk.

*According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. National Bowel Cancer Screening Program: monitoring report 2017.

Fact Sheet

Download the Cancer Australia Fact Sheet on Bowel Cancer – June 2017

(Source: Australian Government – Cancer Australia)

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Posted On: 2 June, 2017
Modified On: 2 June, 2017


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