With catchy phrases out there like “love your bum”, what has changed in recent years in terms of public awareness for colorectal cancer?

Education has made a big difference. Myths are starting to dissipate, such as “it’s an old person’s disease”, or “it mostly affects males”. The medical community has also become more proactive and organized in having discussions with our patients about screening and prevention. 

"The truth is that by the time symptoms occur, the cancer has often spread and is no longer curable."

Although awareness has improved, and colorectal cancer is up to 90 percent preventable, why is it still the second leading cause of cancer death?

It is the silent killer that everyone thinks will be obvious. It is difficult to conceptualize that we would not feel anything while a tumour grows in our bowel. The truth is that by the time symptoms occur, the cancer has often spread and is no longer curable. Sadly, we still see this every day.   

What do you think is integral to removing colorectal cancer from the top killers list?

We need to start a ‘blue wave’ of colorectal cancer awareness and screening involvement, similar to how breast cancer awareness advocates created a ‘pink wave’ of knowledge and action. We need to invert the stigma of colorectal cancer screening and prevention, whereby it becomes normal to have discussions and participate in screening programs, and it becomes strange to avoid talking about it.  I believe the wave has already started; now we just have to keep spreading the word.