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Bowel cancer and men – the facts

1 in 11 Australian men will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.

Bowel cancer affects men of all ages - and risk increases every year from age 50.

Around 55% of all Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are men.

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’.

Increased 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’.

 

Bowel cancer and men – the impact

Bowel cancer is the third deadliest cancer in men

Bowel cancer kills more than 2,300 men each year, 240 (10%) are under age 55.

More than 8,000 Australian men are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Around 1,037 (15%) of those men diagnosed with bowel cancer are under age 55.

 

Bowel cancer and men - prevention

Symptoms

In its early stages bowel cancer often has no obvious symptoms; however, any of the following may be suggestive of bowel cancer:

• Persistent change in bowel habit (looser more diarrhoea-like bowel movements, constipation, or smaller more frequent bowel movements)
• Change in appearance of bowel movements
• Blood in the bowel movement or rectal bleeding
• Unexplained tiredness, weakness or weight loss
• Abdominal pain, especially if severe
• A lump or pain in the rectum or anus

Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bowel cancer. Other medical conditions, some foods and certain medicines can also cause these changes.

However, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, don’t delay in talking to your GP about them.

Early detection could save your life.

No matter your age, you should never be told that you are “too young” to have bowel cancer.

 

Family History 

Most men who develop bowel cancer have no family history of the disease.

However, having a relative, especially a first-degree relative such as a parent, brother, sister or child with bowel cancer can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.

For example, if either of your parents were diagnosed with bowel cancer before age 55 you would be considered to have a moderate bowel cancer risk.

If you have three close relatives diagnosed with bowel cancer at any age, you would be considered to have a high bowel cancer risk.

In both examples, it is advisable to see your GP for individual advice about bowel cancer surveillance or screening.

 

Diet & Lifestyle 

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’.

For the latest information on modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer – including consumption of red and processed meat, alcohol, fruits and vegetables, fibre and engagement in physical activity – download our free resource - Modifiable Risk Factors - Understanding Bowel Cancer.

 

Screening & Surveillance

Bowel Cancer Australia recommends participating in screening appropriate to your personal level of risk.

For people at average risk of bowel cancer, medical guidelines recommend screening using a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every 2 years from age 50.

However, if you have one relative diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 55 years or older, screening should be considered every 2 years from age 45.

BowelScreen Australia® screening tests can be purchased from participating community pharmacies, online at bowelsecreenaustralia.org and over the telephone on 1800 555 494.

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.