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Bowel cancer: Are you at risk?

A/Prof Paveyrecently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the Fairfax group on the Risk Factors for Bowel Cancer. See below for full article details.

Australia has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world, with 15,253 people diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014.

After lung cancer, bowel or colorectal cancer (cancer of the large intestine or rectum) is our second biggest cancer-related killer, responsible for 4,346 deaths in 2015.

“Australia has a growing overweight and obese population. Along with insufficient physical activity, dietary factors and high tobacco and alcohol consumption rates, these factors contribute to the high rate of bowel cancer,” said Sydney-based Gastroenterologist A/Prof Pavey. Non-modifiable risk factors, including genetic predisposition also play a role, he said.


Diet and Lifestyle

“The first thing I tell my patients is to stop smoking and to reduce alcohol consumption,” A/Prof Pavey said.

“For men that means no more than two standard drinks a day, and for women no more than one.” 100 millilitres of wine equates to a standard drink (10 grams of alcohol), but an average restaurant serve is 150 millilitres.

Although not entirely clear what makes red meat carcinogenic (cancer-promoting), the link between its consumption and bowel cancer incidence is evident, A/Prof Pavey said.

“People should eat no more than 100 grams of lean red meat per day”; that’s a palm-sized steak the thickness of a deck of cards, and ideally not barbecued.

“We should be avoiding charred meat, and processed meats like salami and sausages.”

A diet rich in fibre from fruit, vegetables and whole grains however is likely to reduce bowel cancer risk, A/Prof Pavey said.

“Fibre promotes a regular bowel habit. The theory is this allows for less contact between foods and potential carcinogens with the bowel lining.”

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

“Bowel cancer incidence goes up significantly from age 50,” A/Prof Pavey said. “That’s the stage when the screening program kicks in and becomes so important.”

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program distributes kits to detect blood in the stool to 50 to 74-year-olds every two years.

“Patients are at higher risk of developing bowel cancer if there is a family history of bowel cancer or bowel polyps (pre-cancerous lumps). They should be screened earlier and more frequently, as should those with an inflammatory bowel disease history, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.”



“If a polyp or growth in the bowel that may be an early cancer is found, we can remove it at the time of colonoscopy, following a positive faecal occult blood test (where traces of blood are found in the stool). That may be all that is required,” A/Prof Pavey said.

“In more advanced cases where the cancer has grown too deep into the bowel wall, patients might require surgery, and chemotherapy or radiotherapy.”


Early detection is key

There are two actions every individual should take, says A/Prof Pavey said.

“One, be aware of those modifiable (lifestyle) risk factors, and two, participate in screening from age 50, because often there are no symptoms.

“Patients should discuss with their doctor any bleeding from the bowel, changes in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss or severe abdominal pain.

“Fewer than 39 per cent of eligible Australians over age 50 complete the National Bowel Cancer screening kit. This means we are potentially missing the early detection of some treatable cancers. Unfortunately, NSW has one of the lowest participation rates at only 36 per cent.

“If we can detect bowel cancer early, 90 per cent of patients will have a good outcome.”


Original article published online: 3 July 2018  – St George & Sutherland Shire Leader

Image from Bowel Cancer Australia


Bowel Cancer Awareness Month | June 1 -30

Bowel cancer claims the lives of over 80 Australians every week. IF FOUND early,  Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can affect any part of the large bowel (colon) or rectum; it may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer is located. 


Common Symptoms include:

  • A recent, persistent change in bowel habit
  • A change in shape or appearance of bowel movements
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Frequent gas pain, cramps
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • Unexplained anaemia
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

Not everyone experiences symptoms, particularly in the early stages of bowel cancer.  The above symptoms may be suggestive of bowel cancer, but they can also be due to other medical conditions, some foods or medicines.


Don’t delay in talking to your GP is you are experiencing any of the described symptoms for two weeks or more, because when diagnosed early 90 percent of cases can be successfully treated.

Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding should never be ignored.


However old you are, you should never be told by your GP that you are too young to have bowel cancer.

While bowel cancer is more common in people aged 55 and over, it increasingly affects people of all ages.

Ask your GP to be referred FOR further investigations including direct to procedure.


Early detection of bowel cancer saves lives.

Images and content from:  Bowel Cancer Australia

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Campaigns are focused on the importance of prevention and treatment in the fight against colorectal cancer.

According to the Australian Government’s Institute of Health and Welfare, Colorectal Cancer was the 3rd most common cancers diagnosed in 2017.

It is estimated that 16,682 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in Australia in 2017 (9,127 males and 7,555 females).

Colonoscopy is the recommended screening test to help detect and prevent colorectal cancer.

For any concerns speak with your local GP or specialist to find out more details.










































Statistics from: Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

Images from: American College of Gastroenterology

Help Us Beat Bowel Cancer












Click here to listen to an audio recording of A/Prof Darren Pavey on Bowel Cancer Awareness.


Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer, after lung cancer.

It affects men and women, young and old.

Bowel cancer often develops without warning signs and the importance of early detection is extremely important in saving lives.

Over 15,200 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, 2,186 of whom are under age 55.

1 in 13 Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime.

Our goal is to have a lasting impact where no one dies of bowel cancer and all those diagnosed receive the support they need.

If detected early, 90% of cases can be successfully treated so . . . don’t wait until it’s too late!


*Statistics and image is from Bowel Cancer Australia website. 






Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month – November

Go purple for November 16Early Detection Saves lives

On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, people around the world will unite to Demand Better in the fight against the world’s toughest cancer, starting with earlier diagnosis. Join us as we work together on this special day to make a world of difference.












Know the Symptoms and Risks

Currently, there is no screening test or early detection method for pancreatic cancer. Some are in development – another sign of the progress happening in the field that needs greater attention and funding support. 

Early diagnosis is vital, so listen to your body and don’t ignore the signs. If you have symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider as soon as you can. 





















Further details on how you can create awareness can be found here 


Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, held in March each year, offers healthcare providers who care for patients with diseases of the colon and rectum a valuable opportunity to educate their community about these diseases and promote awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment. These efforts may also provide a window into the profession and encourage others to consider careers in the field of colon and rectal surgery.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month