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Bowel cancer – Are you at risk?

It’s always time to be aware of bowel cancer risks

Did you know that, according to Bowel Cancer Australia, 1 in 12 Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer by the time they are 85 years of age…that’s more than 8% of the population. And as you age, your risk increases.

So, maybe you haven’t given a great deal of thought to how this might affect you but it’s time you did!

Chances are you know someone who has been affected by this diagnosis, either directly, or in their family.

Now it’s true that bowel habits are not exactly a topic of day to day discussion for most of us (unless you are a naturopath, in which case it’s something we talk about A LOT!). But if you are not already taking notice of yours it’s time to start paying attention. And don’t be embarrassed to talk to your health care professional about what’s going on for you.

Make yourself familiar with your bowel habits.

Know what is “regular” and “normal” for you. Everyone is different but it is important to know yourself and be aware of a change in bowel habit. If it feels more than just temporary you should seek the opinion of your doctor and don’t be afraid to keep pushing for answers until you are satisfied that all is ok. Many, many people have digestive issues which have nothing to do with bowel cancer but are more to do with food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, gut infections and imbalances of bowel microflora (the essential bugs in your gut).

Other signs that should be investigated include blood in your stool, frequent or persistent abdominal pain and unexplained loss of weight. They may not be associated with disease but this should be ruled out.

Certainly, if there is a family history of bowel cancer or if you have a history of polyps then your doctor should be able to advise on a regular screening program that is appropriate for your circumstances.

What can you do to reduce your risk of bowel cancer?

To reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer, there are lots of things you can do. These include:

  • eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and rich fibre sources such as legumes (chickpeas, lentils etc) and wholegrains
  • exercise regularly (it helps to maintain good muscle tone in the bowel)
  • drink plenty of water
  • limit your alcohol consumption
  • limit your consumption of red and processed meats
  • minimise your intake of saturated fats
  • don’t smoke

If you are at all concerned, see your doctor for assessment.

More information is available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website or you can discuss your concerns with your GP or naturopath. A GP is your first port of call to organise tests and diagnose any problems but a naturopath will be able to help you with dietary advice, help you to quit smoking and ensure you are optimising your health (and if you are “lucky enough” to be over 50 you will receive a free screening kit in the mail).

Want help with your health? Call me on 03 9620 9503 and let's have a chat about your best next step.
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