The importance of bowel screening

June 29, 2015| Health and Wellbeing /

With more people aged 50 and over opting to have regular bowel screens, the incidence of bowel cancer has been on the decline. As June’s Bowel Cancer Awareness month wraps up, Epworth Gastroenterologist Dr Wayne Friedman explains it’s still a good idea to get screened if you’re slightly younger, or are in a risk group.

A recently published study by JAMA Surgery journal found in the United States the incidence of bowel cancer has actually been increasing for those under the age of 50.

The study found the chance of colon or rectal cancer occurring will increase for those aged between 20 to 34 years old. The rate increases over time, especially after the year 2020. If the trends predicted in the study continue, it could mean a doubling of colon cancer within 15 years.

The exact causes of this increase are not yet known, so regular bowel screening plays an important role in minimising impact.

What can I do?

Colon cancer happens sporadically, and can happen in patients without a family history of the condition. Staying aware of the symptoms of colon cancer is a good first step. If you notice anything amiss, speak to your doctor.

The most common symptoms of bowel cancer are blood or mucus in faeces, an unexpected change in bowel habit, general discomfort in the abdomen, tiredness and weakness.

If you are overweight, drink a lot of alcohol or have ulcerative colitis you’re more at risk of developing bowel cancer.

For health care professionals, Dr Friedman recommends to be on the lookout for symptoms of colon cancer that might otherwise be dismissed in younger people, and consider extending bowel cancer screening to those under age 50.

Learn more about Epworth’s gastroenterology services.

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