Bowel Cancer Symptoms

Jennifer is 37. As a thriving business woman, she travels the world for work. She has an excellent friendship group and a partner to match. Jennifer is on top of the world.

In 2006, while in London for a conference, she passes a blood clot. Startled, she visits a local medical centre for peace of mind. She had been suffering irregular stomach cramps for some time, but pushed the thought of a problem aside.

The doctor states it could be a number of any issues such as stomach problems, ulcers or polyps. Her best advice is to return home and schedule a colonoscopy.

Jennifer takes her advice. With her best friend in tow to drive her home after the procedure, she attends her appointment. Her hands tremble as she enters the clinic; she has heard it isn't a pleasant procedure and has always associated it with a much older age group.

A week later she visits the same clinic to obtain the results. Her life changes at a moment’s notice.

Nothing could have prepared Jennifer for the alarming report, which diagnosed her with bowel cancer.


Regrettably, Jennifer’s story is a familiar one. Cancer is Australia’s leading cause of death and over 43, 000 people are expected to die from cancer, this year alone . Most of us know someone who has suffered, or been affected by cancer. But what we are less aware of is that bowel cancer is the world’s second largest cancer killer. And all it could take to slash deaths is a five-minute test!

Did you know you're as likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer, as you are to be involved in a serious car accident? We wouldn’t feel comfortable driving on our roads without the right insurance coverage, so why are so many Australians risking their lives by refusing a simple test that can offer the same peace of mind?

Every year there are 12, 000 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in Australia, and over 4000 of these result in death. Most of these are needless, and as Bowel Cancer Australia declares, “preventable, treatable and beatable” . Bowel cancer affects everyone in Australia. Although it is primarily a disease presented in people over 50, recent research has unveiled increasing numbers of sufferers in their 20s and 30s.

According to Dr Guy Hingston, one of Australia’s leading bowel cancer specialists, the most effective and accurate way to check for bowel cancer is to “have regular faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) every 2 years from the age of 50”. This has been a longstanding Australian Government recommendation, which he laments has not filtered through to the Australian public.

Two years ago, the department of Health and Ageing introduced bowel cancer screening using FOBT, by posting a free FOBT kit to everyone on the Medicare register when they turned 50, 55 and 65. Dr Hingston agrees this initiative has been very helpful, but he and other medical specialists are calling for more.

Many medical professionals would like to see flexible sigmoidoscopies as part of a new bowel cancer screening program. One study asserts that if this procedure were to be performed ONCE between the ages of 55 & 64 the death rate from bowel cancer would be reduced by 43%. Unfortunately, in this case, the cost is the preventative measure…

Recently, there has been increased publicity surrounding the issue of bowel cancer. The Bowel Cancer 2012 Challenge is a tremendous, and much needed campaign that calls for enhanced services for bowel cancer patients.

Initiatives such as these are important steps in rasing awareness and funds for bowel cancer detection and treatment. However, there are measures YOU can take to prevent, and detect the symptoms of, bowel cancer early.

To prevent:

• Have a varied diet with a lot of fibre; and
• Have regular colonoscopies, when no obvious symptoms are present.

To detect, watch out for:

• Rectal bleeding;
• Changes to bowel habits; and
• Prolonged abdominal discomfort and distension.

If bowel cancer is caught in time, more than 90% of cases can be treated with success.

Following months of intensive chemotherapy, and battling emotions such as fear, pain and despair, Jennifer’s battle with bowel cancer was unsuccessful. Her dying wish was to share her story and encourage all of us, old OR young to regularly check for bowel cancer – to avoid her fate and give all of us a better chance of survival.

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