Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of newly diagnosed cancer in New Zealand and our second biggest cancer killer. Each year about 3,000 people are diagnosed with the disease and more than 1,200 will die from it. June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s a good time to familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
What is bowel cancer?
Also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, it is any cancer that affects the colon and rectum. Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa advise that most bowel cancers start as benign innocent growths (called polyps) on the wall of the bowel. If a polyp becomes cancerous and goes undetected, the cancer cells will multiply to form a tumour in the bowel.
If the tumour goes untreated, it can grow into the wall of the bowel or the back passage where the cancer cells can travel into the lymph nodes, bloodstream, and then other parts of the body.
It’s important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer, as the earlier it is caught, the easier it is to treat.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
– Bleeding from the bottom without any obvious reason
– Other symptoms such as straining, soreness, lumps and itchiness
– Going to the toilet more often or experiencing looser stools for several weeks
– Abdominal pain – especially if severe
– Any lumps or a mass in your tummy
– Weight loss and tiredness (symptoms of anaemia)
If you are concerned about any of the above, it’s important to see your GP.
5 easy ways you can support Bowel Cancer Awareness Month:
1. Find out what you ‘need to know’ about bowel cancer prevention, risks and symptoms – www.beatbowelcancer.org.nz
2. Distribute awareness posters & flyers in your workplace, group or community by requesting – firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Order ‘Bum shorts’ ($10), Tees ($20) and lapel pins ($5) to sell among your family, friends, colleagues and local community – email@example.com
4. Host a Bowel Cancer Awareness Month fundraising event
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