Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

By Brooke Luethen

Bowel Cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second most common cancer in men and women in Australia. Bowel cancer develops when cells in the lining of the bowel grow too quickly, forming a clump known as a polyp or an adenoma. Polyps can often be harmless, however over time can develop into a cancerous tumour if left undetected. In advanced cases, the cancerous tumour can spread (metastasise) beyond the bowel into other parts of the body.

Around 17,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. However if detected early, 90% of cases can be successfully treated. Upon diagnosis, treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

During the early stages of bowel cancer, there may be minimal or no symptoms, which is why screening is so important. Screening is recommended for Australians aged 50 to 74, and involves a non-invasive test for blood in the faeces which can be done at home. Symptoms include recent, persistent change in bowel habit; blood in the stool; abdominal pain, bloating or cramping, anal or rectal pain; a lump in the anus or rectum; unexplained weight loss or swelling; and unexplained tiredness and/or weakness.

Bowel cancer risk is increased by having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive red and/or processed meat consumption, drinking alcohol, and being overweight or obese. These risks can be addressed through diet and lifestyle and are referred to as modifiable risk factors. There are also non-modifiable risk factors including age, family history and hereditary conditions.

Exercise plays a significant role in bowel cancer prevention and management. Evidence suggests individuals who engage in regular exercise are at a reduced risk of developing bowel cancer. There is also emerging evidence that suggests exercise can prevent physiological decline, assist fatigue management and improve quality of life for people with bowel cancer and cancer survivors.

Exercise for people with bowel cancer should be prescribed and delivered by an Allied Heath Professional, such as an Exercise Physiologist. An Exercise Physiologist will be able to develop an appropriate exercise program tailored to a person’s capacity, exercise preferences and goals. Our exercise physiologist, Millie, has undergone additional training in Exercise Oncology and can prescribe safe exercise programs for individuals with any type of cancer, in both individual and group class settings.

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