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What does COVID-19 mean for someone affected by bowel cancer?

If you or someone you know has bowel cancer, your concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to extend beyond toilet paper shortages and low pasta supplies.

Inaugural Lawrence Penn Chair of Bowel Cancer Research, Mark Molloy, believes molecular testing of pre-cancerous bowel polyps can reveal why some polyps remain harmless while others turn deadly.

New research suggests individuals with Crohn’s disease are at increased risk of bowel cancer and bowel cancer death.
Furthermore, patients with Crohn’s who have bowel cancer are more likely to die from bowel cancer than bowel cancer patients who don’t have Crohn’s.

Sex is a sensitive subject to discuss under the most ordinary of circumstances, but it can become particularly delicate to speak about following bowel cancer.

Low energy levels and physical discomfort after surgery can affect how a person feels about wanting to have sex.

Along with regular exercise, a healthy, nutritious diet that includes a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, pulses, good quality protein and essential oils is an integral part of recovery from bowel cancer.

But what happens when the side-effects of the treatment designed to return a person to health make them feel so terrible, they can’t or won’t eat?

Bowel habits are unlikely to return to what they were before surgery for anyone who has had bowel cancer, according to more than 200 bowel cancer patients surveyed around the world.

Scanxiety: (scan + anxiety) word used to describe the experience of heightened anxiety and distress both immediately before and after a scheduled scan.
Source: Handbook of Oncology Social Work: Psychosocial Care for People with Cancer. Oxford University Press, 2015

The most common side effect reported by patients being treated for cancer is fatigue.

Cancer-related fatigue not only causes tiredness and a lack of energy, it can also contribute to depression, confusion, irritability, and poor memory.

Bowel Cancer Australia asked people who have had or are living with bowel cancer to send in their top tips for feeling well. The response was wonderful and so were the ideas!
We hope some (or all) of the tips shared will help you or someone you know in the face of operations, chemotherapy and on the road to recovery.