Be Informed about the Facts.
The facts about bowel cancer in women:
- 1 in 16 Australian women will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
- Bowel cancer affects women of all ages – young and old.
- Around 45% (almost half) of all Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are women.
Choices you make related to diet, lifestyle, screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk.
Because you can change or modify these risk factors, they are referred to as ‘modifiable’.
Increasing age, personal and family health history and hereditary conditions can also influence your bowel cancer risk.
Because you cannot change these risk factors, they are referred to as ‘non-modifiable’.
The impact of bowel cancer in women:
- Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, after breast cancer.
- Bowel cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in Australian women after lung and breast cancer.
- Each year more than 7,000 Australian women are diagnosed with the bowel cancer and almost 2,500 die.
- Around 1,087 (15%) of those women diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 55.
Be Vigilant and follow up Symptoms.
Know the symptoms of bowel cancer and if you notice something isn't right don't delay in talking to your doctor about them.
In its early stages bowel cancer often has no obvious symptoms.
It is important to recognise possible bowel cancer symptoms and have them investigated if they persist for more than two weeks.
Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bowel cancer.
Some women, however, may experience the following symptoms:
- a change in bowel habit;
- a change in appearance of bowel movements;
- blood in the stool or rectal bleeding;
- frequent gas pains, cramps, or a feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum;
- a feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely after a bowel movement;
- unexplained anaemia (a low red blood count) causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss;
- rectal or anal pain or a lump in the rectum or anus;
- abdominal pain or swelling.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, don’t delay in talking to your doctor about them.
However old you are, you should never be told you are too young to have bowel cancer.
Be Knowledgeable of your Family History.
Most women who develop bowel cancer have no family history of the disease.
However, having relatives, especially first-degree relatives such as parents, sisters, brothers or children with bowel cancer significantly increases your risk of developing bowel cancer.
This risk is increased even further if you have a history of bowel cancer in:
- one or more first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) diagnosed younger than age 55
- two or more first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) diagnosed at any age
If you have a family history of bowel cancer it is advisable to consult your doctor for specific advice regarding bowel cancer surveillance / screening.
For further details visit the bowel cancer risk factors page on the Bowel Cancer Australia website.
Be Conscious of your Diet & Lifestyle (Be Healthy & Physically Active).
When it comes to bowel cancer there are no guarantees, but there are choices you can make and steps you can take to reduce your risk.
Diet and lifestyle choices can influence your bowel cancer risk. Because these are things you can change (modify), they are referred to as 'modifiable' risk factors.
For the latest evidence on modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer - including meat, alcohol, wholegrains and physical activity - visit Bowel Cancer Risk: Diet and Lifestyle.
Be Proactive with Screening & Surveillance.
Bowel Cancer Australia recommends that people participate in screening appropriate to their personal level of risk.
For people at average risk, screening involves a simple at home test.
You are considered to be at average risk if you have no symptoms, no family history and no more than one first degree relative who has been diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 55 and over.
A positive result does not necessarily mean bowel cancer but requires timely investigation by colonoscopy. See your GP for a referral.
A negative result does not mean you do not have, or can never develop bowel cancer, and it is recommended that you repeat the test every 1-2 years.
However, if you develop any bowel cancer symptoms see your GP immediately.
Regular surveillance may be recommended by a specialist for people with a family or personal history of bowel cancer and/or if they are considered to have a high bowel cancer risk.