Bowel cancer kills 80 Australians every week. However, if detected early enough, nearly all cases could be cured. That's the message behind The Cancer Council Victoria's initiative to make bowel cancer screening accessible to all Victorians over 50.
"More than 1,000 Victorian lives are lost to bowel cancer each year - almost three times the state road toll - yet many lives could be saved through early detection.
"The risk of bowel cancer increases significantly after the age of 50. This is why we're making screening tests easily available to all Victorians over 50 via the Cancer Council Victoria website or by calling 9635 5050," said manager of the Cancer Education Program, Alison Peipers.
Bowel cancer screening tests will be available free to those turning 50, 55 or 65 before 31 December 2010, as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
"Our aim is to complement the government's efforts to reduce bowel cancer-related deaths by making these tests available to all Victorians over 50 who are not yet eligible for the national program," said Ms Peipers.
"The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is the first cancer screening program to target men and women and it has the potential to save more lives than both the established cervical and breast screening programs, combined. We therefore strongly encourage all those eligible to take part in the national program," added Ms Peipers.
Screening is essential because bowel cancer often develops without symptoms. The Cancer Council recommends all men and women over 50 complete a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years, even if they do not have symptoms*. Those with symptoms or a strong family history of bowel cancer are encouraged to see their doctor immediately.
An FOBT is a simple, at-home screening test that looks for traces of blood in the bowel motion, which may be invisible to the naked eye but could be an early sign of bowel cancer. FOBTs are available through the Cancer Council by calling 9635 5050, or via Cancer Council Victoria website at www.cancervic.org.au/boweltest at a cost of $28, or $20 for pensioners and health care card holders.