The month of June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and we’re doing our part to raise awareness by sharing some important information about one of Australia’s deadliest cancers.
What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer and as the name suggests, it can affect any part of the colon or rectum. These two organs make up the large intestines. 1 Bowel cancers develops from growths, known as polyps on the lining of the wall of the bowel. 1 It’s important to note, that polyps are common and not all polyps become malignant (cancerous). 1 In Australia, it is estimated that 15,206 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, affecting any gender, and both young or old. However, with early detection and prevention 99% of cases can be treated successfully. 1
What can I do to prevent bowel cancer?
There are a few modifiable lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer.
- Eat foods high in fibre; there are two types of fibre to incorporate into your diet, insoluble fibre and soluble fibre. 2 Fibre helps keep you feel fuller for longer, improves cholesterol levels and assists with regular bowel movements.
- Insoluble fibre, think brown rice, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, kiwi, green beans and broccoli. These foods add bulk to your stools and will keep your bowel happy as the solids will move out easily. 3
- Soluble fibre forms a thick gel in our digestive tract. This soft gel softens stool and makes it easier for it to move through the bowel. Carrots, apples, chickpeas, and oats are your go-to for soluble fibre. 2
- Keep hydrated! Easier said than done sometimes, however, keeping that water intake up and consuming fibre in your diet are like two peas in a pod! 2
- Avoid or limit eating processed meats such as ham, sausages and salami. 2
Researchers have found that keeping physically active can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by 16%. 1As per the National Physical Activity Guidelines, adult Australians should aim to be physically active each day of the week for approximately 30 minutes or more. Any way to get the body moving is great, it could be a brisk walk, game of sport, bike ride, pilates or yoga. Also remember to limit sedentary habits, for example watching TV or playing games. Whilst working from home has become much more common nowadays, remember to get up and move around to break up long periods of sitting! 5
Screening & Early Detection
As many people do not exhibit any symptoms in the early stages of developing bowel cancer, it is important to get screened after the age of 45 or sooner if you have a family history of bowel cancer. A faecal immunochemical test (FIT) can be done at home for bowel screening. This test looks for small amounts of blood in stools that cannot be observed by the naked eye. There are also several other tests that can be conducted by a medical professional to examine your bowel. Please speak to your GP for further information or to raise any concerns you may have. 6
By Bianca Petrovski
1 Bowel Cancer Australia - Awareness, Support & Research [Internet]. Bowelcanceraustralia.org. 2022. Available from: https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/
2 Diet | Reduce your risk | About bowel cancer [Internet]. Bowel Cancer UK. 2022. Available from: https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/risk-factors/reducing-your-risk/diet/
3 Dietary fibre series - insoluble fibre [Internet]. Monashfodmap.com. 2022. Available from: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/dietary-fibre-series-insoluble-fibre/
4 Dietary fibre series- soluble fibre [Internet]. Monashfodmap.com. 2022. Available from: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/dietary-fibre-series-soluble-fibre/
5 Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians [Internet]. 2022. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians
6 Australia B. Tests & investigations - Bowel Cancer Australia [Internet]. Bowelcanceraustralia.org. 2022. Available from: https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/tests-investigations