Gentlemen, don’t go picking up those clippers just yet! Movember is over but facial hair growth doesn’t have to stop there. We’ve now stepped into Decembeard territory, an opportunity to continue growing your beard to raise funds for bowel cancer.

Running for the fourth year in Australia, Decembeard “encourages men to grow a beard in the final month of the year to raise awareness and much needed funds for bowel cancer”.

Originating in the UK by Beating Bowel Cancer, Bowel Cancer Australia has brought the fundraiser down under. With their vision being to have an everlasting impact on health where no Australian dies from bowel cancer.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, is a form of cancer which affects any part of the large bowel (colon) or rectum. While most bowl cancers start as benign (non-threatening) growths, known as polyps, adentomatous polyps can become cancerous. If left untreated they can develop into a cancerous tumour and in advanced cases metastasise (spread) to other organs.

According to Bowel Cancer Australia, it’s the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men. More than 8,000 are diagnosed each year and 1 in 11 Australian men will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.

Who is at risk of bowel cancer?

While Decembeard is about raising funds and awareness for bowel cancer in men, it can affect both men and women. It is one of the top 5 causes of death among Australians 45 – 74 and the seventh leading cause of death in those aged 25 -44.

Sadly, Australia has the highest rate of bowel cancer in the world with 1 in 13 developing it in their lifetime. Risk factors include:

  • Genetics, around 25% have a hereditary contribution and/or family history of bowel cancer.
  • Age, risks greatly increase over for those over 50 years old.
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking, eating red meats, processed meats, alcohol and being over weight all contribute to risk.
  • Other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or other cancers like ovarian or digestive cancers.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Routine screening is important as symptoms often do not appear in early stages of bowel cancer. Symptoms can also be overlooked or attributed to other conditions, such as haemorrhoids.

Any of the following occurring for more than two weeks can be symptoms of bowel cancer:

  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in the stool or toilet
  • Change in stool habits, particularly severe changes including diarrhoea, constipation or feeling of incomplete emptying.
  • Change in the appearance or shape of stool
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain or a lump in the anus or rectum

Raising awareness and funds for bowel cancer prevention

This December there are a number of ways to get involved in raising awareness and funds.

  1. Grow a beard. Sign up online and create your own (or a team) Decembeard Australia webpage where you can invite everyone to donate online in support of your facial hair growth.
  2. Challenge your beard. If you already have a beard challenge it by decorating it or sculpting it into something amazing.
  3. Raise awareness through hosting an event or encouraging the males in your life to take part in growing a beard.