It’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month and an opportunity to remind people that there are other bowel diseases with symptoms that can mimic those of bowel cancer.
IBS affects about one in five Australians and is more common in women than in men.
Like bowel cancer, its symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating and changes in bowel motions including diarrhoea and constipation. Diagnosis often relies on the pattern of symptoms and exclusion of other conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, bowel polyps or bowel cancer.
While the cause of IBS is largely unexplained, episodes can be triggered by factors such as diet, infections or stress. One way to help identify the triggers is to keep a diary and track whether the symptoms follow any pattern which can be linked to diet or lifestyle.
Treatments include dietary management, medications to manage specific symptoms, and stress management.
IBS is a chronic condition that can be disabling if not well managed. Bowel cancer can be lethal if not diagnosed early.
Don’t sit on your symptoms! Persistent or unexplained bowel symptoms including diarrhoea, constipation, bleeding from the bowel and abdominal pain should always be investigated by your doctor.