Bowel cancer not only a problem for older people

By Justin Sayson

Despite being Australia’s second deadliest cancer, Bowel Cancer Australia says only 41 per cent of people go for screening.

The focus for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is the groups that are silent sufferers, communications and strategic projects manager Joni Thomas said.

Since 1990 bowel cancer rates have doubled in Australians aged 20-29.

Ms Thomas said that while the risk is smaller compared to older people, bowel cancer poses a risk to young people.

“Young people think they’re invincible so they’ll pass things off,” she said.

“They think it’s unlikely and importantly a lot of the times the doctors will dismiss the symptoms.

“From the person to the people in the medical system, [we] need to recognise that this is a growing concern. You need to rule out bowel cancer rather than ruling everything out first.”

An 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found that 51,800 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Because screening results are so low, Australians aged 50-74 are sent take-at-home tests.

Ms Thomas said that even though it might save their lives the ‘taboo about touching stool’ often stopped people.

“If you think about it, many people that have pets. They’re going to end up having to touch stool at one point that may not be their own,” she said.

“Anybody that’s changed a diaper knows unfortunately that’s not always a clean process.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said a third of cancer cases were preventable.

“If detected early, approximately 90 per cent of cases can be effectively treated which is why it’s imperative for eligible Queenslanders to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program,” she said.

For more information about Bowel Cancer Awareness month, visit their website here.

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