NRL – Kick Bowel Cancer


This year almost 15,000 people will get bowel cancer. And 4,000 of these people will die. It is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. Bowel cancer affects both men and women equally. But together we can kick bowel cancer, because 90% of bowel cancers are curable if caught early.

If you haven’t already done the bowel cancer assessment do it today.

Early detection could help save over 9000 Australians every year. 

nrl kick bowel cancer button

Symptoms of bowel cancer

In its early stages, bowel cancer often has no symptoms. However, some people may experience symptoms such as:

  • a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or smaller, more frequent bowel movements
  • a feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum
  • a feeling that the bowel hasn’t emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • blood in the stools or on the toilet paper.

Read more about other symptoms of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer screening

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a population-based screening program offered to those people turning 50, 55, 60 or 65 years of age.  People turning 70 and 74 will be included in 2015. Additional age groups will be added in each of the following years. By 2020, everyone aged between 50 and 74 will be offered testing every second year.

A faecal occult blood test kit (FOBT) is mailed to people eligible for the program. Samples are collected in the privacy of your home and sent to a pathologist for analysis. Results are sent to you and your GP. If the FOBT is positive, further tests are needed.
More about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program can be found here and at

How to reduce your risk of bowel cancer

  • Cigarette smoking has been linked with bowel cancer, and is also a risk factor for almost all types of colonic polyps. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to cut your cancer risk.
  • Evidence shows that drinking alcohol is a risk factor for bowel cancer. Limit drinking alcohol. The recommendations are for no more than two standard drinks a day.
  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is likely to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Aim for five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day. A serve is about a handful. Eat a variety of wholegrain, wholemeal and high-fibre foods such as cereals, breads, rice and pasta. Aim for at least two serves a day, with half being wholegrain.
  • Research suggests too much red meat may increase the risk of bowel cancer so try cutting down to 3-4 serves per week (a serve = 65 – 100g of cooked meat e.g. 1/2 cup of mince, or 2 small chops, or 2 slices of roast meat). Try to stick to lean red meat limit or avoid eating processed meats. Avoid charring and barbecuing of meat, because high temperature cooking of red meat has been linked to bowel cancer.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. Maintain a healthy weight by eating plenty of fruit and vegies and exercising regularly. Being obese confers an approximately 1.5-fold increased risk of developing bowel cancer relative to being normal weight. Carrying weight around your middle has been shown to increase the risk of many types of cancer.
  • Regular physical activity, either for work or pleasure, protects against bowel cancer.  Aim for at least 30 minutes, preferably more, on most days of the week.

Find out more about reducing your risk of bowel cancer.

More information about bowel cancer

What is bowel cancer   Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer symptoms   National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
Bowel cancer diagnosis   Reducing your risk of bowel cancer
What causes bowel cancer   Research into bowel cancer