Cancer Council Victoria has commended TV presenter and musician Geoff ‘Coxy' Cox for speaking publicly about his recent bowel cancer diagnosis.
"Having a strong media personality like Coxy talk openly about his experience of bowel cancer will boost awareness of a cancer that is rarely spoken about but kills 80 Australians each week," said Alison Peipers who heads up the Bowel Cancer Program at Cancer Council Victoria.
Recent research by Cancer Council Victoria revealed less than a quarter of people over 50 could name a single sign or symptom of bowel cancer, and only one third had heard of a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) - the simple test used to screen for bowel cancer.
"The level of ignorance surrounding what is the second most common cancer in Australia is quite alarming. Many people do not realise bowel cancer often develops without any symptoms, but that if found early, nearly all cases of bowel cancer can be cured," said Ms Peipers.
Screening for bowel cancer is easy - it involves completing a simple, at-home test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). The test looks for traces of blood in the bowel motion which could be a sign of bowel cancer. Those who test positive will be encouraged to see their doctor to arrange further investigations, usually a colonoscopy, to determine the cause of the bleeding. Ms Peipers said it was important instead for those experiencing symptoms* and those with a close family history of the disease, to make an appointment to see their doctor.
"By sharing his story about what must have been a difficult time for him and his family, we hope Coxy will inspire Victorians over 50 to get serious about bowel cancer screening," said Ms Peipers.
Cancer Council Victoria recommends screening every 2 years from the age of 50. Currently all Australians turning 50, 55 or 65 before31 December 2010 will receive a free bowel cancer screening kit in the mail as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Those who are over 50 and not yet eligible for the national program can order a kit through Cancer Council Victoria by calling 9635 5050 or online at www.cancervic.org.au/boweltest
Bowel cancer symptoms
When bowel cancer symptoms are present, they may include:
- Blood after a bowel motion
- An unexplained and persistent change in bowel actions. For example, looser or more frequent bowel motions or becoming severely constipated
- Unexplained tiredness
- Lower abdominal pain or a persistent feeling of fullness.
If you notice any of these symptoms it's important you see your doctor. In most cases their cause will be something other than cancer, but if they are related to bowel cancer, early detection will give you the best chance of cure.