Bowel cancer is the second most deadly cancer in Australia, and although it is primarily seen in people over the age of 50, it can still affect anybody, with more and more young people being diagnosed every year. The rates of bowel cancer in Australia are quite high when compared to other countries, with 1 in 13 Australians developing bowel cancer in their lifetime.  The good news is that when detected early, the majority of bowel cancers can be successfully treated, so it’s important to keep an eye out for risk factors and warning signs and make sure that you keep your bowel healthy!

You should always keep an eye on possible warning signs for bowel cancer, and make sure that you get screenings as required. If you do start to notice changes to your toilet routine or bowels, which persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to go and see your GP!

Some of the specific symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Blood in your stool, or rectal bleeding.
  • Changes to your bowel habits, like diarrhoea, constipation, or struggling to go to the toilet.
  • Changes to the way your stool looks.
  • Pain or swelling in your abdomen.
  • Pain or lumps on your anus or rectum.
  • Unexplained tiredness, weakness, or weight loss.

It’s always important to know your family history and keep your doctor informed of any conditions so that they can keep an eye on your risk factors. However, it’s not only those with a family history who are affected. Although the exact cause of bowel cancer isn’t currently known, there are certain risk factors to look out for. Some of the risk factors that are out of your control include age, previous bowel diseases, and of course your family history. There are also factors that you can control, including lifestyle factors which you can modify to reduce your risk, such as reducing excess body weight through making healthy diet choices, engaging in physical activity, and managing your alcohol intake.

When it comes to the foods that you eat and how they can help to maintain a heathy bowel, there’s a few different things that you can do. Of course, making overall healthy choices which help to reduce excess body weight is one way to reduce your risk. You can also:

  • Reduce the amount of processed and red meats that you eat, opting instead for fresh, lean meats like chicken or fish.
  • Decrease your overall alcohol intake, instead choosing non-alcoholic beverages like sparkling water.
  • Eat more fibre in your diet through wholegrains, fruit, and vegetables.

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