Never Too Young Awareness Week 2018: Young-onset bowel cancer on the rise

Bowel Cancer Australia

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You have bowel cancer…. Four words you don't expect to hear when you're young.

Yet each year more than 2,100 young Australians do, and data indicates that number is increasing each year.

It is a common misconception that bowel cancer is 'an old person's disease', but the reality is that you should never be told that you are too young to have bowel cancer.

Latest US research has revealed people born in 1990 onwards have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared with people born in 1950.


Young-onset bowel cancer is on the rise

  • Bowel cancer incidence rates among young people are increasing both in Australia and internationally
  • There has been a 186% increase in bowel cancer cases in adolescents and young adults (15 - 24 years) over the past three decades
  • Bowel cancer is the most common cause of cancer death for those aged 25–29, while bowel cancer and brain cancer are responsible for the greatest number of cancer deaths for those aged 30–34
  • The five-year relative survival for young Australians aged 15-24 diagnosed with bowel cancer is 87.3%, which means young people have around an eight in ten chance of surviving five years after diagnosis relative to comparable people in the general population.


In addition to the commonly experienced delays in receiving a colonoscopy, young-onset bowel cancer patients can face additional challenges in receiving their diagnosis. 

Many young-onset patients present with advanced bowel cancer, which is usually due to delayed diagnosis.

Patients regularly delay self-referral, as presenting symptoms are attributed the other conditions and therefore overlooked.

Specialists frequently delay diagnostic tests because of inattention to the potential significance of symptoms owing to the relative rarity of bowel cancer in this young population.

A constant theme of feedback received from younger patients by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Bowel Care Nurses is that signs and symptoms are attributed to haemorrhoids, anal fissures, food intolerances or other conditions, a normal part of pregnancy and recovery after having a baby or even just a result of a living hectic lifestyle.

This Never Too Young Awareness Week (4-10 June), Bowel Cancer Australia is raising awareness that being young does not make you immune to bowel cancer.

Regardless of age, everyone needs to be aware of the bowel cancer symptoms and has the need for a prompt diagnosis.

No one knows your body better than you, so listen to it and if something isn't right make an appointment to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Do not accept ‘you’re too young to have bowel cancer’ as an explanation for your symptoms. Ask your doctor to be referred for further investigations, and if you’re concerns aren’t being taken seriously seek a second opinion.

To help spread the important #Never2Young message, we’re encouraging anyone living with or beyond young-onset bowel cancer, and their loved ones, to join our social media campaign this 4-10 June 2018, sharing their age of diagnosis, the stage, and how long it took to receive their diagnosis.

Bowel Cancer Australia 665x308 NTY Me


Never Too Young Awareness Week - Share your photo and story

Never Too Young Awareness Week (4-10 June 2018) is a dedicated week during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the unique challenges faced by people who are living with or beyond young-onset bowel cancer. Sharing photos and stories to raise community awareness of young-onset bowel cancer and provide support to young people diagnosed with the disease.

Were you diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 55, or do you have a family member or friend who was?

Download this year’s #Never2Young sign, snap a photo of yourself and share your story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #BowelCancerAustralia #Never2Young.

The sign has a space for you to write the age of diagnosis and how long it took to receive that diagnosis in marker pen – download our patient sign, download (male) loved one sign or download (female) loved one sign now.

Knowing what you do now, having been through bowel cancer yourself or with your loved one, what would be the one piece of advice you would give to other young people?

Email your photo and piece of advice to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for inclusion in our annual Never Too Young Awareness Week collage (see our collages from 2016 and 2017).

Thank you to all of the Bowel Cancer Australia #Never2Young Champions who have joined the ‘faces of young-onset bowel cancer’ and continue to share your advice with other young adults around Australia.


Bowel Cancer Australia 665x308 NTY Dad


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