Calls to lower bowel cancer screening age as it rises in young Aussies
Surge in young people struck down by bowel cancer prompts calls to lower the age for crucial screening of the disease
- Young Aussies are being diagnosed with bowel cancer more, research suggests
- Bowel cancer rates in under the 50s increased over the past three decades
- Doctor urges ‘greater awareness’ among GPs of young-onset bowel cancer
- A survivor calls on young people to ‘trust in their instincts’ and get tested
People under 50 are being diagnosed with bowel cancer more often in recent decades, prompting a call from experts to lower the age of screening for the disease.
The second deadliest disease in Australia claims more than 5,000 lives each year, with 10 per cent of new cases occurring in the under 50s, Bowel Cancer Australia said.
Its research suggested case rates of those under 50 had increased over the past three decades, as the organisation urges those with symptoms to get a prompt GP referral for a colonoscopy.
Survivor Stephanie Bansemer-Brown (pictured with her 13-year-old son Angus) was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer 10 years ago, before she went through ‘intense’ surgery to get back on track
Ms Bansemer-Brown had gone to the GP complaining of blood in her stools, changes in her bowel habits and consistent abdominal pain – and urges those with symptoms to get a quick GP referral for a colonoscopy exam (stock photo)
Stage-three bowel cancer survivor Stephanie Bansemer-Brown told Daily Mail Australia she was diagnosed at age 42 and said she felt ‘surreal’ after the shock result.
‘I immediately thought, ‘Why did I not know about bowel cancer?’ I knew about checking my breasts, I knew about ovarian cancer, but not about this one.’
‘My son was two and a half at the time, and all I could think of was, ‘I want to grow old and see him grow up’.’
The mum said she had gone to the GP complaining of blood in her stools, changes in her bowel habits and consistent abdominal pain.
The mum was told she was too young for bowel cancer and that she just had hemorrhoids that were nothing to worry about.
Yet her symptoms persisted for over a year before she decided to get a colonoscopy, which showed she had bowel cancer, resulting in an ‘intense’ seven-hour surgery two weeks later.
Doctors were careful the surgery didn’t result in Ms Bansemer-Brown needing a permanent bag outside her body.
When it’s detected early, nine out of 10 bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully, the Australian Health Department said
The cancer survivor said she would like to see the screening age for colonoscopies dropped from 50 to 45.
‘I’d like people to be way more bowel cancer-aware and for there to be greater discussion on the issue and if you are concerned … trust your own instincts,’ Ms Bansemer-Brown said.
‘Had I not investigated it when I did I wouldn’t be talking with you today, and my son wouldn’t have a mum.’
Bowel Cancer Australia spokesman and Associate Professor John Nik Ding reinforced Ms Bansemer-Brown’s message.
‘Greater awareness among GP specialists of young-onset bowel cancer to increase screening is probably warranted,’ the associate professor said.
Dr John Ding said he had a 29-year-old patient who had an iron deficiency.
‘When she first came to see me with her life ahead of her, she was a speech pathologist just about to get married,’ Dr John Ding told the Courier Mail.
Yet she died 12 months later after the cancer spread to her lungs.
The doctor partly blames the consumption of red meat, sugary drinks and alcohol as a factor contributing to the prevalence of the disease .
Bowel Cancer Australia estimates that 25 per cent of rectal cancers and 10-12 per cent of colon cancers will be diagnosed in people under age 50 in the next 10 years.
The organisation’s CEO Julien Wiggins said: ‘If young-onset bowel cancer is rising in Australia and around the world without an obvious cause, then our approach to screening should be modified.’
‘All major US guidelines now endorse average-risk bowel cancer screening from age 45, yet Australian guidelines continue to lag, despite screening proven to be cost-effective from this age,’ he said.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening program is eligible for Australians aged between 50 and 74 where recipients receive a free test kit in the mail.
When it’s detected early, nine out of 10 cases can be treated successfully, the Australian Health Department said.
Associate Professor John Nik Ding (pictured) said earlier bowel cancer screening for those under 45 is ‘warranted’
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