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Life-saving campaign wins award for Cancer Council Victoria

Thursday 6 December, 2018


Cancer Council Victoria has won a prestigious VicHealth award for its campaign Do the home screening test – it could save your life.

The award winners were announced last night, Wednesday 5th December, where Do the home screening test – it could save your life won in the highly competitive ‘Communications in health promotion’ category.

The VicHealth awards are Victoria’s highest accolade for health promotion, recognising outstanding achievements in Victoria’s health promotion sector.

Cancer Council Victoria’s winning campaign targeted people aged 50-74 who were eligible to receive a National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) test in the mail, or who had already received one at home but hadn’t yet done the test.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death claiming the lives of 4,346 Australians and 1,372 Victorians every year, but if detected early, 90% of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.

Unfortunately, 1.9 million Australians – 59% of those eligible – ignored the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program’s free home screening test in the two years from 2015 to 2016. Cancer Council Victoria’s 2017 donor-funded mass media campaign aimed to encourage more Victorians to do the test when it arrived at their home.

The campaign was built around the power of personal storytelling. The television commercial shared personal experiences of real Victorians who lost loved ones to bowel cancer. In the emotive advertisement they shared how if their loved one had done the test, they might still be here today. This was cut together with hard-hitting facts about the seriousness of bowel cancer, and closed with an image of the NBCSP kit, urging people to do the test that could save their life.

“This campaign set out to raise awareness of the seriousness of bowel cancer and educate people about the importance of the home screening test," said Kate Broun, Manager of Screening and Early Detection at Cancer Council Victoria. “We aimed to provide Victorians with a compelling reason to do the test, by showing the loved ones of people who had died from bowel cancer – grief which could have so easily been avoided.”

The campaign used TV, radio, and digital media as well as GP waiting room advertising to reach the broad population from July – September 2017.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said “As a result of the campaign, almost 1,400 more people participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program for each week of the campaign. That’s around 12,500 more people doing the test.”

“This potentially saved the lives of hundreds of Victorians with just seven weeks of advertising.”

The increased screening likely led to the detection of 26 extra cancers, 187 polyps, and 93 adenomas (potentially pre-cancerous) being found.

Of those who do participate in the NBCSP, 77% re-participate when next invited. This indicates the need to encourage people to do the test the first time, as it’s likely they will continue thereafter.

The campaign broke new ground for Cancer Council Victoria. It was Cancer Council Victoria’s largest ever investment in a bowel cancer screening campaign. It was completely donor funded and made possible thanks to a generous donor.

Another new approach was a supplementary campaign targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Greek and Italian communities.

“Bowel cancer kills nearly as many people in Victoria each year as prostate, breast or skin cancer,” said Todd Harper. “Despite this 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early. That’s why campaigns like these are important and, potentially, life-saving.”

Cancer Council Victoria had a strong showing at the VicHealth awards with two other campaigns nominated on the night; the SeeUV app developed by SunSmart that was also nominated in the Communications in Health Promotion category, and Quit Victoria received a highly commended in the Preventing Tobacco Use category for the Tackling Tobacco in Mental Health Services project.

View the video from this award-winning campaign

For more information about bowel cancer and screening go to