You are here

Bowel Cancer

Submitted by bsurgeonadmin on Mon, 2014-09-01 19:46

Bowel cancer is the second commonest cause of cancer death in Australian, after lung cancer. Many people believe that it is a condition that mainly affects men, but figures clearly show that it affects an almost equal number of women.

Whilst breast cancer is the third commonest cause of cancer death overall, there are a greater number of women dying from breast cancer than bowel cancer simply because the former is almost exclusively confined to women.

Unlike breast cancer however, the vast majority of bowel cancers are preventable. This is because we are clear in our knowledge of the way that the majority of bowel cancers develop – they arise from a pre-existing benign polyp. Because the time line for a benign polyp to change into a cancer is many years, there is an opportunity to intervene by removing polyps. This can be achieved easily and safely at the time of a colonoscopy.

The symptoms that patients commonly experience with bowel cancer are rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits and abdominal pain. There are many other conditions that produce these symptoms, but to be on the safe side I would always advise a consultation together with a colonoscopy in any patient presenting in this manner.

Screening for bowel cancer, that is identifying and investigating patients who do not have symptoms but have an increased risk of developing disease, is an important part of this prevention. There are comprehensive guidelines with regard to which patients should undergo a screening colonoscopy.

Patients who present with symptoms suggestive of colorectal cancer expect to be seen in a timely and efficient manner and, with this in mind, I have set up a rapid assessment clinic at Brisbane Private Hospital and the other locations at which I consult. Similarly if you know you may be at increased risk of developing the disease, because of family history, you will be seen without delay.