Footscray AFL legend Dougie Hawkins was “jumped on, tackled, bashed and chucked to the ground” over his 18 year career with the AFL.
So as the star of a new campaign, Hawkins scoffs at the idea that doing the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) to screen for the precursors of bowel cancer is ‘too hard’ for Australians aged 50 to 74.
Dougie, 55, says doing the test in the privacy of your own home is simple compared to the knocks he took on the footy ground.
“I must laugh when I hear people say the FOBT is too hard. Too hard? I did it – that’s how easy it is!” Dougie says in the video
by Cancer Council Victoria.
Under the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, the FOBT is sent to eligible Australians aged over 50 years. Currently, the program is inviting men and women turning 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 to screen for bowel cancer.
Each year more age groups are being invited to participate in free bowel cancer screening. By 2020, all Australians aged 50 to 74 will be invited to screen every two years.
Yet only 37% of Australians who were mailed a kit from the program completed and returned the test in 2013 and 2014*.
The non-invasive test allows for early detection of bowel cancer risk, so that people with positive results can be referred for more testing to possibly prevent cancer from developing or to catch the cancer at an early stage.
Those who have completed the kit once are more likely to complete the test again, with the program’s monitoring report* stating 74% of people who received an invitation to the program screened a second time.
Bowel cancer is Australia’s second leading cause of cancer death and the risk of the disease increases sharply over the age of 50.
Cancer Council Victoria Prevention Director Craig Sinclair says that the re-screening rate supports recent research that examined people’s experiences using the kit.
“Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer surveyed 1000 Victorians who had completed an FOBT, they were most likely to describe the test as ‘simple’, ‘easy’ and ‘painless’,” he said.
If you are not one of the ages currently covered by the national program, you can purchase an FOBT from Cancer Council Victoria online at cancervic.org.au/boweltest
or by calling the helpline on 13 11 20. FOBTs are also available through some GPs, pharmarcies and health care funds.
* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. National Bowel Cancer Screening Program: monitoring report 2016.