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Urgent push to stop 1300 Victorians needlessly dying each year

Wednesday 26 July, 2017

Bowel cancer kills 4 times as many as road toll

For the first time, a new Victoria-wide bowel screening campaign could see more than 20,000 additional Victorians screening for bowel cancer, which can detect the disease at an early stage, even when there are no symptoms and avoid the need for extended chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The campaign – the biggest bowel cancer public education campaign Cancer Council has ever rolled out in Victoria – launches as new data shows the importance of early detection on survival rates.  

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said bowel cancer is our second biggest cancer killer, claiming the lives of more than 1,300 Victorians each year.

“To understand the enormous impact of bowel cancer on the Victorian community, consider this – bowel cancer kills four times more Victorians than road accidents [i] ,” Mr Harper said.

“This is a real tragedy because many of these cancer deaths are preventable, in fact if you detect bowel cancer at stage 1 or 2, you have a 98% to 90% chance of survival respectively, but too many people are ignoring the free and simple test mailed to our homes. I’ve done it myself. Compared to the impact of a diagnosis on our immediate families and the long-term mental and physical toll of advanced cancer treatment, doing the test is easy.”

But currently only 40 per cent of eligible Victorians aged between 50 and 74 complete the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program home test. This is the fourth lowest screening rate across the states and territories.

Cancer Council hopes that this campaign will help to increase participation to 50 per cent and lead to an additional 20,000 Victorians taking the test this year.

“If screening continues to rise, within the next 10 to 15 years more than one million extra Victorians could be screening for bowel cancer, potentially saving tens of thousands of Victorians from aggressive bowel cancer, treatment or death,” said Mr Harper.  

“One of the major reasons people don’t do the test is that they simply don’t realise that bowel cancer is a widespread, deadly disease and that they could be at risk – this campaign aims to shine a spotlight on this cancer and motivate Victorians to save themselves or their loved ones.

“It is clear that the screening program helps to find bowel cancer early, when 90% can be successfully treated, if you wait until you have symptoms, you may be at stage 3 or 4 where your chances of survival decrease to 71% and 15% respectively,” said Mr Harper.

“Our message is simple - if you’re aged over 50 and receive the free bowel cancer screening test in the mail, do it. It could save your life.”

For more information visit

Helen’s story

Helen Clapham was aged 56 and feeling 100% healthy when she received a bowel cancer screening test in the mail. She completed the test without hesitation, and luckily so. It may have saved her life. 

“It was life changing. I had no symptoms and absolutely no idea I had bowel cancer.  The doctor said it could have been so much worse if they found the cancer later. I’m so grateful the test identified it early,” she said.

People often think it won't happen to them, but I’m proof this is not the case. I urge you; do the free test when you receive it in the mail. It could save your life. 

About the modelling

‘Modelled analysis of impact of increasing NBCSP participation in Victoria,’ Cancer Council NSW

The figures assume screening participation for all screening-eligible ages (50-74 years) increases as a result of active intervention in 2017, and reaches 50% by 2021.

The analysis used the Policy1-Bowel microsimulation platform, developed at CCNSW.

For further information about the model please refer to: “Long-term evaluation of benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in Australia: a modelling study,” Lancet Public Health 2017; 2: e331–40, July 2017. Available from:  

Cancer Council Victoria acknowledges that this campaign was made possible by the Hynam Family - Edward Aubrey, Marjorie Mavis and Geoffrey Ian.