No butts about it: Cancer Council Victoria campaign urges men to do the bowel screening test

Sunday 13 September, 2020

Two thirds of Victorian men aged 50–54 missing out on lifesaving bowel screening

With only one third of eligible Victorian men aged 50–54 participating in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Cancer Council Victoria has launched an urgent call for them to complete the free life-saving test when it arrives in their mailbox every two years.

Launching today, the campaign airs across TV, radio and digital channels in Victoria to highlight the importance of finding bowel cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely.

Screening Program Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, Kate Broun said while bowel screening is important for all people aged 50–74, the campaign is tailored for Victorian men in their 50s to increase screening rates in this age group and ultimately save hundreds of lives.

“We know that the risk of developing bowel cancer increases from the age of 50. It is shocking to see that only 33 per cent of men aged 50–54 and only 38 per cent of men aged 55–59 are taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program,” Ms Broun said.

“We’re urging these men to prioritise their health and complete their bowel screening test, especially if COVID-19 means you’re spending more time at home – now is the perfect time to do the test. When you receive the test don’t put it in the cupboard and forget about it – you could be ignoring the chance to save your life.”

Cancer Council Victoria’s first bowel screening campaign in 2017 resulted in approximately 12,500 extra Victorians screening for bowel cancer, potentially saving more than 300 people from developing bowel cancer and more than 180 from dying of bowel cancer.

Gastroenterologist at Royal Melbourne Hospital, A/Professor Andrew Metz warned that many Victorian men may be complacent about their chances of developing bowel cancer and putting their lives at risk by ignoring the test.

“Bowel cancer is our second biggest cancer killer, taking around 100 Australian lives each week. Yet, if more people completed the at-home bowel screening test every two years, many of these lives could be saved,” Dr Metz said.

“The test is quick, simple and hygienic and can be completed in the comfort of your own home. It spots the early signs of bowel cancer when effective treatment is more likely – in fact, 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if found in the early stages.”

“They say life begins at 50 – so we’re asking Victorian men to grab life by the horns, put their health first and tick bowel screening off their to-do list for the sake of themselves and their loved ones.”

The mass media campaign, which includes TV, radio, digital and social media advertising, will run over six-weeks from mid-September 2020, supplemented by engagement activities with GPs and workplaces.

Tailored materials for Arabic- and Tamil-speaking Victorians have also been developed to address low screening rates within these communities.

For more information about the bowel screening campaign visit bowelcancer.org.au.

Erik’s story

Erik received the bowel screening test in the mail shortly after his 50th birthday. He’s glad that he completed the test with no delay and urges other men to do the same.

“Though I normally wouldn’t have bothered, something prompted me to do the test straight away. The test result came back positive, so my GP immediately sent me for a colonoscopy.”

“The procedure detected a tumour and I was booked in for surgery. Within a week of diagnosis, the tumour was removed. The cancer was classified as Type 2 A bowel cancer.”

He said it’s important to remember that the risk of developing bowel cancer increases from the age of 50 and often develops without symptoms.

“The diagnosis left me stunned. I could not see this coming as I am healthy, active, a nonsmoker, and had absolutely no symptoms.”

“It is scary to think – if I hadn’t done the test and the tumour not been detected, I probably would have found out once I had symptoms which could have been too late.”

He encourages other men in their 50s to take advantage of the free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and do the test.

“It is such a simple and well-designed test. I would highly recommend doing the test to give you peace of mind. Plus, it could potentially save your life – it saved mine!”