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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Oct-Nov 2012
Active RetireesTM | 35 L et’s be frank. No one really likes to talk about the state of his or her bowel movements. Apart from young boys, most people go so far as to pretend that they don’t even do number twos, but this approach isn't the most helpful for your health. “Bowel movements are a natural, normal part of your body’s functioning,” says Dr Ronald McCoy from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. When it comes to bowel cancer, which kills 78 Australians every week, paying attention to your poo (it’s not a rude word – you can say it), especially if you’re over 50, can make all the difference to surviving. “Once you turn 50, your risk of bowel cancer doubles,” warns Julien Wiggins, CEO of Bowel Cancer Australia. “Ninety-three per cent of bowel cancer patients in Australia are over the age of 50.” One in 12 Australians will develop bowel cancer before they turn 85. Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with over 14,000 people being diagnosed annually. Wiggins suggests this can be attributed to our ageing population, that not enough people are screening and because a western lifestyle is a strong contributing factor to the disease. “Seventy-five per cent of cases can be put down to a poor diet that is high in saturated fat, processed foods and low in fresh produce, along with a lack of exercise,” says Wiggins. Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer, which means cancer of the colon or rectum. The cancer starts off as a polyp, an initially benign, mushroom-shaped growth on the lining of the bowel wall. Some polyps develop into cancer and some don’t. “Cancer can be prevented by having the polyps removed,” says Wiggins. Basic bowel health The definition of normal when it comes to your bowel health is different for everyone and it’s up to you to be aware of this. “Your bowels don’t understand what’s normal – you’re the one who has to keep an eye on it,” advises Dr McCoy. Be conscious of changes in your bowel movements’ colour and consistency, as well as the frequency of bathroom visits. “Some people don’t even look at their bowel motions – and they should,” says Dr McCoy. “It helps differentiate between your regular pattern and something unusual.” However, just because things change down there every now and then, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. By the same token, just because there are no obvious changes, you may not necessarily be in the clear. » 20 per cent of adults aged 56 to 88 years had changes to their bowel habits didn’t visit their doctors. Saved by the test by Melissa Heagney A GP in the regional town of Shepparton in Victoria, Dr Graeme Jones had a lot of experience dealing with health issues, but never thought he was at risk of bowel cancer. “I felt very fit and healthy, and ate well. The only risk factor I had was that I was older than 50,” he says. Just after his 65th birthday, Graeme received a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – a bowel cancer screening test the Federal Government posts out to men and women aged 50, 55 and 65 as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. He took the simple test at home and received his results soon after. He had blood in his bowel motion, one of the symptoms of bowel cancer, so made a booking for a colonoscopy. “I was very miffed to get a positive report,” Graeme says. “Being a GP I rationalised it as being something benign and got on with work. Then the colonoscopy revealed a cancer in my lower bowel, much to my surprise.” A week later, Graeme underwent surgery and began six months of chemotherapy for stage-three cancer. “I had no symptoms and no family history of cancer, but had I not done the FOBT I would now almost certainly be facing an incurable, metastatic cancer instead of being – hopefully – cured. To say I was lucky is an understatement.” Find out more more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening program at the Australian Government’s Cancer Screening website. w: www.cancerscreening.gov.au
Active Retirees Aug-Sept 2012
Active Retirees Dec-Jan 2013