Under the spotlight — Bowel cancer

2 min

Bowel cancer affects both men and women and is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Australia. When the cancer is detected at an early stage, the chance of survival is far better than if detected later.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, develops from the inner lining of the bowel. Polyps are small outgrowths of abnormal cells from the lining of the bowel. They are usually harmless but if left untreated they can grow into larger masses and become cancerous.

Bowel cancer in Australian men

Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men. In 2018, it was estimated that 9,300 men would be diagnosed with bowel cancer, and over 2,000 men would die from this disease. Men are 40% more likely to be diagnosed and 20% more likely to die from bowel cancer than women.

What is bowel cancer screening?

The Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program aims to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer.

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is recommended for all Australians between the ages of 50 and 74 and is a quick and easy at-home test.

Participation in bowel cancer screening is important as screening allows doctors to detect cancer before any symptoms are present.

Despite screening being shown to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer by 16%, just 4 in 10 Australians invited to participate do so. Men are also less likely to take part in bowel cancer screening than women.

What else can I do?

Having a healthy lifestyle, including being physically active, quitting smoking, eating non-processed foods and increasing your intake of dietary fi bre can reduce your overall risk of bowel cancer. For help with any of these things, see your GP.


AIHW. Cancer in Australia (2017) Cat. No. CAN 100. Canberra
AIHW. National Bowel Cancer Screening Monitoring Report (2018). Cat. No. CAN 112. Canberra


Bowel cancer

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