Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: What are the symptoms and how can you prevent it?

Let’s digest some facts.

About 3000 Queenslanders will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year, and about 1000 die from the disease.

Yet, it is a disease many of us are reluctant to talk about.

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about bowel cancer, prevent the disease and detect it early.

Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, refers to tumours that develop in the large bowel (colon or rectum).

Generally, bowel cancers develop from polyps, which are growths on the inner lining of the bowel wall.

A cancerous bowel tumour can grow into deeper layers of the bowel wall and has the potential to spread to lymph nodes, glands and other organs.

The key to halting the spread of the cancer is early detection.

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

The National Bowel Cancer Screening program currently invites men and women turning 50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 64, 68, 70, 72 and 74 to screen.

Although age is a major risk factor with bowel cancer, lifestyle factors, a personal or family history of bowel cancer, or the presence of inflammatory bowel disease can also be contributing factors.

To aid with prevention, Queenslanders – of any age – can take active steps to help reduce their personal risk, simply by introducing healthy lifestyle changes.

Boosting fibrous food intake, reducing alcohol, red and processed meat consumption, and adjusting physical activity habits all play an important role in prevention of the disease.

Fibre is found in plant foods like vegetables, fruit, wholegrain foods, legumes, nuts and seeds. Women should consume 25 grams of fibre a day and men should eat 30 grams.

We know the more physically active people are, the more they reduce their cancer risk, so aim for 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day for optimum health.

In addition to living a healthy lifestyle and taking part in screening programs, it’s important to be aware of changes in bowel habits and bodily functions.

Symptoms can include rectal bleeding such as blood in the stool, a recent change in usual bowel patterns, lack of energy, unexplained weight loss or lack of appetite, and persistent cramping or abdominal pain.

While the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer, they should not be ignored. See your GP if you experience any or all of these things.

This month put your bowel health first and remember – prevention and early detection makes all the difference.

For more information about bowel cancer and Cancer Council Queensland visit or phone 13 11 20 for information and support.

Ms Chris McMillan
CEO, Cancer Council Queensland

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Lisa Maynard,
Senior Media Advisor,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5171
Mobile: 0488 015 702