What is bowel cancer?

  • Bowel cancer happens when the cells in the lining of the bowel become abnormal and too many of them grow.
  • In NSW, 1 in 16 people will get bowel cancer during their lifetime.
  • It happens more in people who are 50 or older.
  • Developing bowel cancer, and at a younger age, is more likely if a close family member has had it.
  • People with diseases like type 2 diabetes, Chrohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may also be more likely to get bowel cancer.

Luckily, the most common causes of bowel cancer are things you can do something about, like:

  • Quitting smokes or smoking less
  • Quitting drinking alcohol or drinking less
  • Eating less red meat or smoked, cured and salted meat like salami
  • Eating more vegetables and fruit if you can
  • Having a waist measurement of no more than 88cm

How will I know if I have it?

Signs or symptoms you should look out for are:

  • Changes in the way your poo looks or feels, like if they are thinner, or there is mucus
  • You notice blood in your poo or bleeding from your bum
  • You feel full in your bowel or rectum even after going to the toilet
  • You notice a lump or swelling around your bum
  • You start getting cramps and feeling more gassy than usual
  • Your pooing habits change, like getting constipated or having looser poo than you did before.

Can I get tested to see if I have bowel cancer?

When bowel cancer is found early, treatment is almost always successful.

If you are aged between 50 and 74, there is a test you can have when you get out of gaol that looks for hidden blood in your poo, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer.

You can have a test even if you don’t have any signs. You can get this test every two years and it is easy to do.

When you get out of gaol and get an address, the Australian Government will send you a free test every two years.

You can also buy a test at a chemist. If this test shows you have hidden blood in your poo it doesn’t mean you have cancer. It does mean you need to see your doctor who will tell you what to do next.

At the moment it is not possible to get this test done in gaol. But it is important to talk to a nurse at the health centre if you have:

  • A history of bowel cancer in your family
  • A bowel disease like Chrohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

How can I get healthy and stay healthy in gaol?

Keeping your body healthy will help to prevent bowel cancer. Here are some tips:

  • Moving more - try walking with a mate or playing a game
  • Exercising or training with a buddy like your cellie
  • Cutting down on sugar, salt and fat in what you eat and drink
  • Eating more fruit and veg - check the buy-ups list and look for the OK sign
  • Making water your main drink
  • Staying Quit from smoking or cut down
  • Having a waist measurement of no more than 94cm for men and 88cm for women.
  • Setting some goals for yourself each week - these small steps can lead to a healthier body and mind.