Australians urged to be bowel aware

Phil Illingworth thought something was amiss four years ago when he started having stomach problems.


The Perth grandfather, now 56, went to his GP for a check-up but his symptoms were initially dismissed.

Two years later he went to a different GP. After several tests it was then he was given the news he had bowel cancer.

“I lived with my problem for two years and after two years I had really bad stomach cramps, I couldn’t go to the toilet properly.

“A blood test indicated there was something wrong in the bowels, and with the colonoscopy they found the tumour immediately.

“The tumour had grown very large.”

After three operations, Mr Illingworth is now cancer free. This year about 15,000 Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer, which is the country’s second biggest cancer killer.

That’s why Mr Illingworth is speaking about the disease. “The problem is people don’t like to talk about bowel cancer, it’s about pooh and things.

“But once you turn 50 you should be screened every two years. “In between that if you have any symptoms at all then you should go to your GP and ask to be tested.”

A new campaign launched on Thursday is encouraging people to get checked before it’s too late.

Only 34 per cent of women and 43 per cent of men reported having had a stool sample checked in the last two years, a Bowel Cancer Australia survey of 1200 people aged between 40 and 70 years found.

By contrast, 70 per cent of women had been checked for breast cancer and 54 per cent of men had been checked for prostate cancer. Colorectal surgeon Dr Graham Newstead said people need to prioritise testing in the same way they would for other common cancers.

“I would urge people from age 50 to do a test today and repeat it every one to two years,” said Associate Professor Newstead.

“It’s easy and can be done in the privacy of your own home.” When found early, 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.

“Bowel cancer often develops without any warning signs,” said Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Julien Wiggins.

“Regardless of family history, from age 50, all Australians are at an increased risk. People need to be bowel aware.”

Bowel cancer symptoms may include:

* A change in bowel habit

* Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding

* Bloating

* Unexplained tiredness

* Abdominal pain or swelling or a lump or mass in your tummy

* Vomiting

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