Health Bowel can­cer facts, sleep health

DR GINNI MANSBERG and PRO­FES­SOR DAVID CURROW share the risks, symp­toms and preven­tion meth­ods to help lower statistics

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

Bowel l can­cer ia is Aus­tralia’s t li ’ sec­ond dead­li­est can­cer, even though 90 per cent of cases are treat­able if caught early enough.

“Right now, one in 28 women and one in 19 men in Aus­tralia will get bowel can­cer be­fore they turn 75,” says Syd­ney GP Dr Ginni Mansberg. “That’s a ridicu­lously high statis­tic.”

Who’s at risk?

While there’s a chance peo­ple un­der 50 may be diagnosed, 86 per cent of Aus­tralians over the age of 50 are told they have bowel can­cer each year. But age isn’t the only risk fac­tor.

“Any­one with a fam­ily his­tory [of bowel can­cer] is more at risk of de­vel­op­ing bowel can­cer,” adds Dr Mansberg. “It might be an in­her­ited con­di­tion like Lynch syn­drome or fa­mil­ial ade­no­ma­tous poly­po­sis, or sim­ply fam­ily his­tory.”

Life­style fac­tors like smok­ing, ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion, high red meat in­take and lack of veg­eta­bles are also con­trib­u­tors.

What are the symp­toms?

It’s im­por­tant to note many bowel can­cer symp­toms – change in bowel habits, ab­dom­i­nal pain, un­planned weight loss, bloat­ing, blood in the stool and pain or lumps in­side the bot­tom – are also symp­toms of ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome (IBS), haem­or­rhoids and Crohn’s dis­ease.

While you shouldn’t jump to the worst case sce­nario, ex­perts in­sist if you ex­pe­ri­ence any of the above (or any­thing in our symp­tom checker) to visit your GP as soon as pos­si­ble.

Most bowel can­cers be­gin as a polyp – a be­nign, non-threat­en­ing growth on the lin­ing of the bowel – and are found via a colonoscopy.

“Lots of polyps will never [turn into can­cer], but you don’t know for sure sim­ply by look­ing at them,” says Pro­fes­sor David Currow.

Pre­pare to pre­vent

It’s time to get to know your poo. “Peo­ple’s poo varies day to day, week to week,” Pro­fes­sor Currow says. “But it’s about get­ting to know how your body works and it’s when it changes [its usual habits], that’s when you need to reach out to your GP.”

Look for any blood, from red to dark brown and even black. Also for any ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the shape, con­sis­tency and fre­quency.

For those of us over 50, Pro­fes­sor Currow em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of tak­ing part in the gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Bowel Can­cer Screen­ing Pro­gram (NBCSP), where they send you

a free test in­volv­ing you col­lect­ing two small poo sam­ples on your 50th birth­day, then on your 54th and af­ter­wards ev­ery sec­ond year un­til you turn 74.

“The NBCSP will find any can­cer be­fore symp­toms and it’s that ear­lier warn­ing g that that’s so cru­cial,” Pro­fes­sor Currow row tells us. Mak­ing life­style changes anges such as adopt­ing a healthy, bal­anced diet and ex­er­cis­ing for r 30 min­utes a day, at least five days ys a week will also re­duce risks. .

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing

We keep hear­ing that at bowel can­cer is treat­able, at­able, but how early does s it need to be de­tected?

“It’s not the length of time the can­cer’s been in your bowel that de­ter­mines whether it’s early or late – it’s if it’s still con­tained within the bowel walls,” Pro­fes­sor Currow says. “When it’s still grow­ing in the lin­ing of the b bowel, that’s the ear­li­est [doc­tors] can see it and those peo­ple have

a fan­tas­tic prog­no­sis.”

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