Bowel cancer in younger people
N2Y 2018
'You have bowel cancer'.
Four words you don't expect to hear when you're young.
Yet each year over 1,413 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 50 years and over, 1 in 11 Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50.
Bowel Cancer... You're Never Too Young is is an initiative of 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 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, 98 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.

N2Y Young onset bowel cancer is on the rise
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
  • 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.

Bowel cancer in younger people – the facts
  • 15,604 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, 1,413 (or 9%) of whom are under the age of 50.
  • Of the 5,375 Australians who die from bowel cancer each year, 292 (5%) are under the age of 50.
  • Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer, with a split of 52% male and 48% 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:
Men: 1 in 1,350
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Women: 1 in 1,390
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Men: 1 in 313
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Women: 1 in 370
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Men: 1 in 87
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Women: 1 in 125
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Men: 1 in 36
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Women: 1 in 57
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Men: 1 in 22
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
Women: 1 in 34
risk of bowel cancer over the next 10 years
 Note: Absolute risk is the observed or calculated probability of the occurrence of bowel cancer in a population.

N2Y Listen to your body
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.

Bowel Cancer Australia Downloadable Symptom Diary
Symptom Diary
Bowel Cancer Australia has created a simple downloadable two-week Know the Symptoms diary resource to help track changes which may be suggestive of bowel cancer.

If symptoms persist beyond that time, people are encouraged to contact their GP and take the Symptom Diary with them to their appointment to use as an aid when sharing their concerns.

Specialists around the world agree that symptom awareness is critical in order to improve earlier detection, when 90 percent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.

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 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 young people living with or beyond bowel cancer, 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 people living with or beyond bowel cancerand 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 inspiring Bowel Cancer Stories of many young bowel cancer patients and their loved ones on 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

Sarahs Story_Never2Young
At just 29 Sarah was enjoying life with her young family when she received the unexpected news – you have bowel cancer.

Four words you don't expect to hear when you're young. Yet the reality is each year over 1,000 young Australians do.

Initially putting the symptoms down to the effects of pregnancy, Sarah decided it was time to see her doctor when she experienced more frequent bowel movements and rapid weight loss after her son was born. "The only reason I'm going to see Angus off to primary school today is because I went and saw my doctor and said "there's something wrong".

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 ASAP

Stephanies Story_Never2Young
Bowel cancer was the last thing I had expected to happen to me in my early twenties.

I had just celebrated my 21st birthday, was in my last semester of university and recently home from a European adventure.

I experienced years of painful bloating, stomach cramps and changed bowel habits.

The colonoscopy saved my life, revealing dozens of polyps and early stage cancer.

My diagnosis resulted in the loss of my entire large bowel, I had a temporary ileostomy and now live life with a J-Pouch (an internal pouch formed from the small intestine).

I am living proof that you are never too young to have bowel cancer. I have no family history, no other medical conditions but survived because I listened to my body and took action.

Bowel cancer is not an old person's disease.

If you're having symptoms, trust yourself and don't give up until you find the answer.

It could save your life.

Hollies Story_Never2Young
At the age of 24 being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer and secondary liver cancer is definitely something you don't expect to be told.

After months of going to see doctors and being in emergency twice for horrible abdominal pain only to be sent home with the assumption it was "girl problems", thanks to my persistence I was put on a waiting list for a colonoscopy. I really had to push for it to be put as urgent as my pains were getting worse.

Hearing the words "you have cancer" hit me like a tonne of bricks and that I had had it for around 5 years is scary. But I was determined to beat it and I did with strength, determination and a positive mind.

My diagnosis was bad and I was told I had a 5% chance to be alive in 5 years. But after two major operations on my bowel and liver, and 6 months of chemotherapy, I was given the all clear.

One thing I came away with is to listen to your body. Only you know your body and if you think something is not right be persistent. Don't sit on your symptoms. Early detection is the best protection.

Being told everyday you're too young for bowel cancer made me feel isolated, like I was the only one. I urge those who read this to know that you are never too young. Bowel cancer is not just for the over 50s, it can affect anyone. I want to change the perception that bowel cancer is something that only affects older people and to help bring much needed awareness.

Remember you are never too young. Family history or not, be persistent and listen to your body. It could save your life.

N2Y not just an old persons disease
Never Too Young Stories

Bowel Cancer Australia's Peer-to-Peer Support Network, is a voluntary community of people affected by bowel cancer, whether personally or via a family member.

To read more stories from young people living with or beyond bowel cancer, and their loved ones, head to Never Too Young Stories.

Connect with Bowel Cancer Australia on all your favourite social networks, share your stories and experiences, join with other young people living with the disease and their loved ones, and help us spread the bowel cancer awareness message.
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