Bowel cancer in younger people
Support For You Bowel Cancer Australia
 
'You have bowel cancer'.
 
Four words you don't expect to hear when you're young.
 
Yet each year over 2,000 young Australians do.
 
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.
 
Although a large majority of newly diagnosed bowel cancer cases occur in people aged 55 years and over, 1 in 7 Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 55.
 
Bowel Cancer... You're Never Too Young is the latest advocacy initiative from Bowel Cancer Australia, providing resources uniquely designed for younger people, helping them to better understand their bowel cancer risk and to take appropriate action.
 
Factors like My Genes, My Family, My Health, My Body, My Lifestyle and My Right can all play a contributing role when it comes to bowel cancer in younger people.
 
Bowel cancer risk is something people of all ages need to be aware of, so if you're a young person please download the Bowel Cancer... You're Never Too Young infographic below and share it with your friends.
 
Being young does not make you immune to bowel cancer.
 
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.
 
If caught in time, 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.
 
Watch this space for more helpful resources from Bowel Cancer...You're Never Too Young.
  
 

Bowel cancer in younger people – the facts
 
  • 15,253 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, 2,186 (or 14%) of whom are under the age of 55.
  • Of the 4,346 Australians who die from bowel cancer each year, 455 (10%) are under the age of 55.
  • Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer, with a split of 53% male and 47% female in those diagnosed under the age of 55.
  • Awareness and action on the following influencers offer the best hope of reducing the number of younger Australians who die each year from bowel cancer:

- following guidelines for modifiable bowel cancer risk factors such as diet and physical activity;

- finding out your family's cancer history;

- knowing the bowel cancer signs and symptoms to look out for;

- early detection. 


Risk Statistics By Age 
 
The risk of bowel cancer increase with age, as indicated in the table below:
 
30
1 in 7,000
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 2,000
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
1 in 700
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 15 years
1 in 350
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 20 years
40
1 in 1,200
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 400
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
1 in 200
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 15 years
1 in 90
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 20 years
50
1 in 300
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 100
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
1 in 50
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 15 years
1 in 30
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 20 years
60
1 in 100
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 50
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
1 in 30
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 15 years
1 in 20
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 20 years
70
1 in 65
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 30
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
1 in 20
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 15 years
1 in 15
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 20 years
80
1 in 50
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 5 years
1 in 25
risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the next 10 years
Note: Absolute risk is the observed or calculated likelihood of the occurrence of an event in a population under study (cf relative risk, which is the ratio of the risk in a particular exposed group to the average risk in the population). Source: AIHW 1996 (NHMRC Clinical Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer). 

Things younger people need to be aware of:
 
Bowel Cancer Symptoms
 
In its early stages bowel cancer often has no obvious symptoms.  Some people, however, may experience the following symptoms: 

  • A persistent change in bowel habit, such as looser, more diarrhoea-like bowel movements (i.e. going to the toilet more often, or trying to go - irregularity in someone whose bowel movements have previously been regular);

  • A change in appearance of bowel movements (e.g. narrower stools or mucus in stools);

  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding;

  • Frequent gas pains, cramps, or a feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum;

  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely after a bowel movement;

  • Unexplained anaemia (a low blood count) causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss;

  • Rectal or anal pain or a lump in the rectum or anus;

  • Abdominal pain or swelling.

If you have any of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have bowel cancer, but it is very important you discuss them with your doctor.
 
Unfortunately, Bowel Cancer Australia regularly receives feedback from younger bowel cancer patients who have initially had their signs and symptoms attributed to haemorrhoids, food intolerances, a normal part of recovery after having a baby or even just a result of a living hectic lifestyle.
 
Although many of the symptoms of bowel cancer are common to multiple health concerns, please 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.

Family History
 
Most people who develop bowel cancer have no family history of the disease.
 
However, having relatives, especially first-degree relatives such as parents, brothers, sisters or children diagnosed with bowel cancer can increase your personal bowel cancer risk.
 
For example, if either of your parents were diagnosed with bowel cancer before age 55, you are considered to have a moderate bowel cancer risk.  If two of your close relatives are diagnosed with bowel cancer (at any age), you have a similar bowel cancer risk.
 
You are considered to have a slightly above average bowel cancer risk if you have one close relative who is diagnosed with the disease aged over 55.
 
If you are a younger person (under age 55) and have a family history of bowel cancer, it is advisable to consult your doctor about specific advice regarding bowel cancer screening.
 
Non Modifiable Bowel Cancer Australia

Diet and Lifestyle
 
When it comes to bowel cancer there are no guarantees, but there are choices you can make and steps you can take to reduce your risk.
 
Diet and lifestyle choices can influence your bowel cancer risk.  Because these are things you can change (modify), they are referred to as 'modifiable' risk factors.
 
For the latest evidence on modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer - including meat, alcohol, wholegrains and physical activity - visit Bowel Cancer Risk: Diet and Lifestyle.
 
Modifiable Bowel Cancer Australia Risk Factors

Bowel Cancer Screening
 
Bowel Cancer Australia recommends that people participate in screening appropriate to their personal level of risk.
 
For people at average risk, screening involves a simple at home test.
 
You are considered to be at average risk if you have no symptoms, no family history and no more than one first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 55 and over.
 
A positive result does not necessarily mean bowel cancer but requires timely investigation by colonoscopy. See your GP for a referral.
 
A negative result does not mean you do not have, or can never develop bowel cancer, and it is recommended that you repeat the test every 1-2 years.
 
However, if you develop any bowel cancer symptoms see your GP immediately.
 
BowelScreen Australia® program screening tests can be purchased from participating community pharmacies, online at bowelscreenaustralia.org and over the telephone by calling 1800 555 494.
 
Regular surveillance may be recommended by a specialist for younger people with a family or personal history of bowel cancer and/or if they are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
 
Modifiable Bowel Cancer Ausralia Screening Surveillance

Bowel Cancer Community and Bowel Cancer Stories
 
Bowel Cancer Australia is fortunate to have a very active community of younger bowel cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones.
 
Many young bowel cancer patients say that they can feel quite alone and isolated when first diagnosed with bowel cancer and during their bowel cancer journey.
 
Often because there is a common misconception in the community that bowel cancer only affects older people and also because many of the other bowel cancer patients they encounter during treatment are older.
 
Parents with young children, people just starting out in their career, singles, university students and newly-weds – younger bowel cancer patients can quite often be in a different life stage to those diagnosed at an older age.
 
Having a child diagnosed with bowel cancer can also be very difficult.
 
The ability to talk with others who know what you are going through can be very helpful, and that is what Bowel Cancer Australia's Peer-to-Peer Network is all about – connecting patients, survivors and loved ones with others in a similar situation.
 
Sharing your story and experiences to raise awareness and help others is also a big part of Bowel Cancer Australia's Peer-to-Peer Network.
 
You can read the Bowel Cancer Stories of many brave young bowel cancer patients and their loved ones on the Bowel Cancer Australia's Peer to Peer Network page

Support services for younger people and their loved ones
 
Bowel Cancer Australia's friendly team of Bowel Care Nurses are at hand to answer bowel cancer questions large and small.
 
Whether you have a question about prevention, screening, diet, lifestyle, symptoms, family history, diagnosis or treatment, Bowel Cancer Australia's team of Bowel Care Nurses and Nutritionist are available to offer support and advice.
 
Ask them a question now at patient services for younger people. 
 
Helpline Bowel Cancer Australia M 1152

Connect
 
Connect with Bowel Cancer Australia on all your favourite social networks, share your stories and experiences, join with other young bowel cancer patients and their loved ones, and help us spread the bowel cancer awareness message.
 
Bowel Cancer Australia App - www.bowelcancerapp.org