WATCHING THOSE NUMBER TWOs: Cancer specialist Michelle Cronk will attend a public seminar on gastro-intestinal cancer in Brisbane next week.
WATCHING THOSE NUMBER TWOs: Cancer specialist Michelle Cronk will attend a public seminar on gastro-intestinal cancer in Brisbane next week. Warren Lynam

Do they sink or swim?

THIS is not toilet humour. Whether they float or sink could be a possible indicator of gastro-intestinal cancer.

With the number of cases of this common group of cancers on the increase, you wouldn't be remiss having the occasional check in the toilet bowl.

Latest figures show about 215 people die on the Sunshine Coast each year from GI cancer and about 420 people are diagnosed.

GI cancer experts, as well as patients, families and supporters, will be holding a public forum and national cancer research meeting in Brisbane next week.

Respected Sunshine Coast cancer expert Michelle Cronk will be attending the forum.

Dr Cronk, an oncologist at Nambour General Hospital, said the difficulty with this group of cancers was that they present quite late.

And when they are detected, it can often be too late to cure them.

Dr Cronk said the good news was that new research and treatments were improving the survival rates.

"With pancreas and stomach cancer, the survival rate beyond five years is 5%,'' Dr Cronk said.

"This is really poor, because they are so silent.

"But with bowel cancer, we are seeing 61% of cases alive after five years."

Dr Cronk said while the cancer affected all age groups, "lifestyle" and diet were known to have an influence.

And as for the buoyancy of the bowel movement?

Dr Cronk said abdominal symptoms, such as pain or discomfort, should be watched as well as changes in bowel habits.

"Floaters can indicate a change in the digestive system," she said.

"Sinkers are more normal."

Regular floaters needn't panic.

What is important is a change in the movement as well as signs of bleeding.

CANCER RATES

  • Sunshine Coast sees about 300 cases of bowel cancer a year
  • Pancreas and gallbladder cancers are about 60 cases a year
  • Stomach and oesophageus are about 60 cases a year.
  • About 215 people die on the Sunshine Coast from GI cancer
  • Nationwide, GI cancers claim 29 lives a day - over 10,000 a year.

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