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Regional and country Victorians urged to screen for bowel cancer

Thursday 7 June, 2012
  • 1,248 people diagnosed with bowel cancer in regional Victoria in 2010
  • A simple, at-home test can find the signs of early-stage bowel cancer which are often invisible

Cancer Council Victoria is encouraging residents in regional and country Victoria aged 50 and over to screen for bowel cancer – Australia's second biggest cancer killer.

The call comes as Cancer Council statistics reveal 1,248 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in regional and country Victoria in 2010.

This amounts to more than a quarter of total bowel cancer diagnoses across Victoria. In 2010, around 3,699 men and women were diagnosed with bowel cancer with 1,330 dying from the disease.

Cancer Council Victoria Screening Programs Manager Kate Broun said a simple-at home bowel screening test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) was one of the best ways to find the signs of bowel cancer in its early stages.

Ms Broun said that in most cases, bowel cancer starts as a growth in the lining of the bowel called a polyp.

"In its early stages, bowel cancer often has no visible symptoms – it means many healthy men and women across Victoria could have bowel cancer and not know it," Ms Broun said. "That's why it's so important to screen for bowel cancer."

FOBTs are designed to find bleeding in a bowel motion caused by polyps. This bleeding can be invisible to the human eye.
Ms Broun said catching bowel cancer in the early stages gave men and women the best chance of survival.

"In 90% of cases, bowel cancer is curable if it's detected early," she said. "If it's left until symptoms appear, such as looser or more frequent bowel motions, bleeding after going to the toilet, stomach pains, constipation or fatigue, it can be much harder to treat successfully.

"We encourage men and women aged 50 and over to complete an FOBT every two years in line with Government and health organisation recommendations.

Speak with your doctor about bowel cancer screening. FOBTs can also be purchased online from Cancer Council Victoria or by calling the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

Tests cost $30 or $22 for those on a pension or with a Health Care Card.

Some age groups will qualify for free screening via the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (those aged 50, 55 and 65).

Bowel cancer facts:

  • Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia and claims the lives of more than 70 Australian men and women each week
  • More than 14,000 people are diagnosed and more than 4,000 people die nationally every year
  • If all Australians aged 50 and over completed an FOBT every two years, it's estimated 30 lives a week could be saved.