This March we are joining with our international colleagues and collaborators to raise awareness of Colorectal Cancer and to build support for more research to improve treatments and ultimately better outcomes for those diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer.

In Australia, Colorectal Cancer is estimated to be the 3rd most commonly diagnosed type of cancer and the 2nd leading cause of death. New cases of Colorectal Cancer have increased from 6,988 in 1982 to over 17,000 in 2018.

To mark Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, an American based non-profit, has developed a very clever ‘Dont ASSume’ campaign (visual examples below).

We are encouraging all Australians to #CYA (Cover Your Arse) by knowing the risks, symptoms and undertaking regular screening as well as helping support research efforts to improve treatments – all of which will enable us to beat this very common disease.

Image Credit: Colorectal Cancer Alliance –

Colorectal Cancer At A Glance*

  • Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Australia
  • On average, your risk of being diagnosed is about 1 in 13, although this varies widely according to individual risk factors
  • 93% of bowel cancers occur in people aged 50 or over, however incidence in Australians aged 20-39 has been increasing since the mid-1990’s
  • About 15-20% of people who develop Colorectal Cancer have a first-degree relative (parent sibling child) also affected by the disease
  • When diagnosed early the 5-year survival rate can be as high as 99% – although currently in Australia only 46% of cases are diagnosed early
  • Unlike many GI Cancers, early detection via screening is available for Colorectal Cancer, which is simple, easily accessible via your GP or Pharmacist, and not expensive
  • By detecting Colorectal Cancer at an early stage patients can ensure a far better chance of long-terms survival and quality of life
  • There are currently more than 50,000 Colorectal Cancer survivors in Australia. With greater uptake in bowel cancer screening, and in turn early detection, this number is expected to continue to rise

What is the GI Cancer Institute currently doing to help patients today?

The GI Cancer Institute has conducted many practice changing clinical trials over the past 2 decades. Currently there are 5 trials focused on bowel cancer open to recruitment across Australia – click here for more.

View this short video to hear from Dr Matthew Burge on the Risk Factors and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer along with more on our current MONARCC research study – which is recruiting now! This study is aimed at improving survival and quality of life for a large proportion of those diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer …

How to #CYA?

As part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month we are encouraging all supporters to #CYA, get involved and help raise awareness of this disease. Please:

  • Talk to those over 50’s in your life about the risk and encourage them to regularly do the free Bowel Cancer screening test
  • Don’t assume you are too young or that it won’t happen to you – be proactive with your health, know the symptoms and seek medical advice if you notice changes or are concerned
  • Like and Follow us on Facebook &/or Twitter – and share posts and updates throughout March with your networks
  • Support our research that will enable more Australians to access new treatments 3- 5 years faster than if it was conducted overseas. DONATE TODAY (the option to designate your donation toward bowel cancer research is available)


Stages of Colorectal Cancer?

There are four stages of colorectal cancer. The early stages are stage 1 and 2, where the cancer is contained within the bowel. The five-year survival rate is highest for these cancers – Australians with stage 1 colorectal cancer have a 99% five-year survival rate. This decreases for each stage of cancer.

Stage 3 cancer, where the cancer is larger and may have started to spread to surrounding tissues and lymph nodes, is more advanced. At stage 4, the cancer has spread from where it started to another body organ. Australians diagnosed with stage 4 cancer have a five-year survival rate of 13%.

How to detect it early?

Colorectal cancer can be detected at an early stage, even if there are no symptoms, through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. It offers free screening every 2 years, using an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT), to people aged 50–74. This is a non-invasive test that can detect microscopic amounts of blood in a bowel motion, which may indicate a bowel abnormality such as an adenoma or cancer.

What are symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Blood in stools
  • A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme, unexplained tiredness
  • Abdominal pain

Who is most at risk?

Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they:

  • Are over 50
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
  • Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Lead an unhealthy lifestyle



Colorectal Cancer Does Not Discriminate – one patient’s story

Paula Kotowicz was only 49 when she was diagnosed. She was one of those people who never seemed to catch so much as a cold. In her late forties, with two teenage daughters and a thriving mental health counselling practice, life felt good.

Then, she caught a bad flu in 2015 and afterwards she started having some digestive trouble. Still, she didn’t think there was much to worry about. She dutifully underwent ultrasounds and tests.

The last was a colonoscopy – and that’s when doctors discovered a tennis ball-sized tumour in her bowel.



Bowel, or colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Australia and frighteningly, patients are getting younger. The GI Cancer Institute is working hard on research to discover better treatments that save more lives.

*Statistics and Data Sources: AIHW Digestive Cancers Report 2017 + +