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New campaign to tackle low bowel screening rates in SE Melbourne

Monday 8 April, 2019

Cancer Council Victoria encourages under-screened communities to test for Australia’s second biggest cancer killer

Cancer Council Victoria has launched a new campaign to help reduce the impact of bowel cancer by increasing screening in the Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Indian and Aboriginal communities living in South Eastern Melbourne.

The initiative follows new data1 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that indicates bowel cancer screening in certain South Eastern Melbourne communities is below the state average.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. Yet, 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found early. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBSCP) sends a free screening test to the homes of people aged 50-74 every two years to detect the early signs of bowel cancer before symptoms appear.

The new Cancer Council Victoria campaign will include digital, print and radio advertisements as well as posters in Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi and Vietnamese. GPs and nurses will also be trained as part of the initiative.

Cancer Council Victoria, Head of Prevention, Craig Sinclair said it was important to make sure everyone aged 50-74, regardless of language spoken or cultural background, understands the importance of doing their free bowel cancer screening test every two years.

“Over 100 Australians die from bowel cancer each week. Yet if detected early, bowel cancer is usually easy to treat. The bowel cancer screening test looks for early warning signs – before symptoms appear, increasing the chances of successful treatment,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Overall only 40.7% of eligible 50-74-year-olds living in the South Eastern Melbourne area are completing the free test – lower than the Victorian average of 43.2%.

“This campaign encourages Victoria’s most under-screened communities to do the test using materials developed in collaboration with community members. The test saves lives.”

The development and delivery of this campaign has been made possible through funding from the Australian Government under the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network.

As part of the campaign, medical staff at 120 general practices across the cities of Casey, Greater Dandenong and Mornington Peninsula will be trained to encourage more patients to do the at-home bowel screening test.

Cancer Council Australia Medical Advisor and University of Melbourne Professor Jon Emery said “Research shows patients are more likely to take part in bowel screening if it’s recommended by their doctor, so GPs can play a key role in lifting screening rates.

“Increasing patient uptake can be as simple as doctors encouraging patients to take the home test; explaining what is involved and dispelling myths or sending letters or text messages to patients who will receive the test.

“The test is quick, simple and hygienic. 77% of people who do the test will do it again when they next receive it in the mail, which shows it’s not as difficult or unappealing as people may perceive.”

This campaign follows Cancer Council Australia’s first major national campaign to promote bowel cancer screening, which launched last month and includes advertising across radio, television, online and outdoor.

For more information in your language, call 13 14 50 or visit

For more information about the bowel screening campaign visit