Victorians urged to take life-saving bowel test

Thursday 29 May, 2014

Loved ones share stories of lives lost in new ad

Victorians aged 50 and over are being urged to screen for bowel cancer, with the launch of the state's first ever TV campaign promoting the life-saving benefits of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Developed by Cancer Council with funding from the Australian Government, the campaign follows a federal budget announcement that the free screening program will be fully implemented by July 2020 and offered to everyone aged 50 and over, every two years.

Currently Victorians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 are invited to screen by completing a simple test that can be done at home. People aged 70 and 74 will be invited next year, with the remaining gaps in program coverage filled over the subsequent three years.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper, said bowel cancer was the state's second biggest cancer killer, causing around 1,300 deaths per year1, yet it was curable in around 90 per cent of cases if detected early.

"Only 3 in 10 eligible Victorians are completing the test, but even on those figures the program is set to prevent more than 17,500 bowel cancer deaths in the state over the next 40 years2" he said. "By increasing participation we would save many more lives."

Mr Harper said that the ad would run over eight weeks and that on current trends, 551 Victorians would be diagnosed with bowel cancer during that period alone3. "Greater program participation would lead to more cases being found, at an earlier stage when they are easiest to treat," he said.

The ad features three Australians who have lost loved ones to bowel cancer.

"We are extremely grateful to Linda, Mark and Moira for speaking about their loss in the hope that similar tragedies can be avoided," Mr Harper said. "As with all cancers, it's not just patients but grieving loved ones who can be profoundly affected.

"It can be even more devastating for a cancer like bowel cancer, which is easy to treat if found early. We now have a program that can detect early-stage cases, so it's up to eligible Victorians to take the test and dramatically reduce their risk."

Screening kits are mailed to all eligible Victorians. People aged over 50 who currently fall outside the target group, or anyone concerned about bowel cancer, should talk to their GP about bowel cancer screening.

The campaign goes to air on Sunday 1 June and will run for eight weeks. Victorians can call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 for more information, or visit www.bowelcancer.org.au to find out more.


1 Source: the Victorian Cancer Registry 2012, Cancer in Victoria trends and statistics 2012

2 Source: Cenin, St John et al, in press.

3 Source: the Victorian Cancer Registry 2012