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Guiding Australia in bowel cancer prevention, treatment and management

Pictured: Jeff and Shirley Cuff

Professor Tim Price, Chair
Medical Oncologist, Gastrointestinal Cancers

University of Adelaide
Queen Elizabeth Hospital

2017 NHMRC Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer (the Colorectal Guidelines) 

Jeff Cuff, Research Advocate
The Shirley Cuff Cancer Research Foundation

Bowel (colorectal) cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in Australia . The update of the national bowel cancer guidelines will ensure the most up-to-date prevention, treatment and management of bowel cancer.

Chair of the Cancer Council NHMRC Colorectal Guidelines committee, Professor Tim Price said this guideline is designed to be used from preventative measures through to supportive care and cover the whole journey of colorectal cancer. 

‘I would like Australians to know there are good quality local guidelines available for both prevention and treatment of bowel cancer.

‘One of the key recommendations is screening for your bowel health. People aged 50 to 74 should be taking a faecal or poo test every two years. It is important to know it is normal and accepted.’

‘Our two major goals are to reduce the rate of bowel cancer and reduce bowel cancer deaths by early diagnosis as much as we can. We know we can achieve this based on best practice using the evidence and recommendations in the guidelines. 

‘Prevention through diet—what you put through the gut will impact its health—exercise, and other preventative medications, such as low-dose aspirin, will reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer. Talk to your GP about your options,’ he said.

The Colorectal Guidelines are used by clinicians involved in the care and treatment of bowel cancer. Historically it has also been used as a training resource for some specialities.

To update the guidelines a committee brought together expertise across the bowel cancer journey. This included consumers and advocates, such as Jeff Cuff whose wife, Shirley, lost her battle with stage four bowel cancer in July 2013. 

‘I think it’s a really good idea to bring in different thinking from a different aspect. It could be linked to the personal experience, which certainly makes you think about treatment options,’ Mr Cuff said.

‘It is so important to have consumers and advocates input into developing guidelines. They provide feedback on how practical recommendations will be seen in the community,’ Professor Price agreed.

‘My message would be for people not to be put off and to ask questions when they see their GP,’ Mr Cuff said.

NHMRC provides comprehensive information for guideline developers, including robust advice on assessing the data and research to inform guideline recommendations. 

‘NHMRC is the peak medical research funder in Australia, so having that review process means the guidelines are the best you can have,’ Professor Price said.

‘It is also a living guideline. This means it has the most up-to-date recommendations based on the most up-to-date evidence—and it is forever being updated,’ he concluded.