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What to Know About Bowel Cancer

Bowel Cancer Awareness Elderly couple

If you’ve seen some of the billboards or other bowel cancer awareness campaigns around the place recently, you’re not alone.

That’s because Bowel Cancer Awareness Month along with other initiatives like the federal government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are making a lot of noise about this largely preventable disease.

Mooney Street Medical is right behind raising awareness around bowel cancer

To help you lower your risk, we discuss:

  • What bowel cancer is
  • The huge importance of early detection
  • Symptoms
  • Easy preventative steps
  • Bowel health winners and losers

Important note: We offer bowel cancer screening services and advice.

What bowel cancer is

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, starts in the large bowel (colon), usually beginning as small growths called polyps on the inner lining of the bowel.

Not all polyps become cancerous, but some do if left untreated.

As the cancer grows, it can spread to other parts of the body, making treatment more difficult because it becomes harder to target and harder to remove all the cancer cells.

When cancer spreads, it can affect other organs and lead to more severe health problems, reducing the chances of a successful recovery.

Understanding bowel cancer helps you recognise its risks and take steps to prevent it.

The huge importance of early detection

Early detection of bowel cancer gives massive benefits to anyone trying to fight the disease or prevent it from becoming serious. That should be everyone.

When doctors find warning signs early, they can often treat bowel cancer successfully meaning less serious, and less invasive methods.

This is similar to many forms of cancer, skin cancer being one clear example.

Regular screening tests, like colonoscopies, can detect polyps before they turn into cancer.

For people aged 50 and above, or those with a family history of bowel cancer, regular screenings are particularly important and highly recommended.

Early detection saves lives, it’s as simple as that, and often makes treatment less complicated.

Mooney Street Medical offers bowel cancer screening services and advice per your circumstances.

Symptoms

Bowel cancer may not cause symptoms straight away, again highlighting the importance of colonoscopies and regular check-ups.

However, some common signs to watch for include:

  • Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding
  • A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or the feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent abdominal pain or discomfort, like cramps or bloating
  • Weakness or fatigue

If you notice any of these symptoms, it may not be cause for alarm, but certainly is worth having checked by a doctor and soon as possible.

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Easy preventative steps

Helping to prevent bowel cancer can actually be pretty straightforward with some lifestyle changes.

Bowel cancer often begins from choices that include a diet high in red and processed meat, low in fruit and vegetables, and low in fibre.

Fibre is important for bowel cancer prevention because it helps keep the digestive system healthy through regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Constipation is related to bowel cancer because when “traffic slows down” in the colon for too long, it increases the colon’s exposure to potential carcinogens in food you may have consumed.

Other contributing factors include lack of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and being overweight.

Here are some choices that we sincerely hope you make:

  • Eat a healthy diet: Include lots of fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains in your diet. Limit red and processed meat which includes beef, lamb, pork, veal and goat.
  • Stay active: Regular physical activity helps keep your body healthy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days.
  • Never smoke: Smoking increases the risk of many cancers, including bowel cancer. Quitting smoking is a major step towards better health, as is never taking it up in the first place. That includes vaping too.
  • Limit alcohol: Drink alcohol in moderation. Excessive drinking can increase your cancer risk. Are you drinking too much or too often? Check here for intake guidelines.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of bowel cancer. Eating well and staying active can help you keep a healthy weight.

Need some help? You’re not alone.

At Mooney Street Medical, we offer a Health and Lifestyle Management Program with a strong focus on disease prevention, perfect for anyone looking to shape up their health.

The program can also be a big step towards cancer prevention.

Bowel health winners and losers

To keep your bowel healthy, it’s important to know what helps it, and what harms it.

Winners:

  • Fibre-rich food: Whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc)
  • Staying hydrated with WATER
  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Omega-3 fatty acids promote bowel health
  • Regular exercise

Losers:

  • Processed meat such as sausages, bacon, and deli meats
  • Highly processed food like sugary snacks, fast food, and convenience meals
  • High-fat foods like deep-fried snacks and fatty cuts of meat
  • Excessive sugar including sugary drinks and desserts and energy drinks
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Smoking and vaping, two losers on any health list

To sum up

As with many health problems, including serious ones, preventative steps through a healthy lifestyle are some of the best advantages you can possibly give yourself.

Almost everyone can make a few adjustments to their lifestyle with the aim of good health, and it doesn’t always mean cutting out something you enjoy.

Try a nice walk with a friend or loved one instead of drinks at the pub, taking up a new active hobby like bike riding, or cook at home more often using healthy ingredients.

The other huge takeaway is early detection.

Mooney Street Medical supports the National Bowel Screening Program, meaning all Australian residents between 50-74 can receive a free home testing kit for screening.

For more information, check here.