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Battle of the poos: which Victorian region leads the bowel screening battle?

Wednesday 23 June, 2021

More Victorians than ever participating in life saving bowel cancer screening, spurred on by Australian Government funded Cancer Council campaign

Talking about poo might sometimes be taboo but Cancer Council is continuing its mission to beat the stigma and encourage Victorians to complete their bowel screening test with new data released today showing some of the top poo-formers across the state.

New data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that the regions of Bellarine Peninsula, Gippsland East and South West, Wangaratta - Benalla and Heathcote - Castlemaine – Kyneton had the highest participation rates in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program .

Encouragingly, Bellarine Peninsula improved almost 4 percentage points (3.7%) from 2016-17 to 2018-19 to take out the poo-tastic title of the region with the highest participation rate at 55%.

Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria explained “Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer claiming the lives of around 100 Australians each week. Thankfully however, we have a screening test that can detect these cancers early, often before symptoms arise.

The promising increase in participation rates comes as new Cancer Council data released today shows that the 2019 Australian Government funded Cancer Council National Bowel Screening communications campaign was responsible for a whopping 93,000 people nationally doing these tests.

“The extra 93,000 tests completed nationally equates to 860 bowel cancers being prevented and 470 lives saved over the next 50 years,” said Mr Harper.

Some regions across the state showed marked improvement in the number of people completing their bowel screening test with Melbourne City showing the greatest improvement, increasing from 34.9% in 2016-17 to 40.3% in 2018-19. Brunswick-Coburg (4.6%), Stonnington-West (4.9%) and Macedon Ranges (4.2%) also showed strong improvements over the same period.

“The Victorian regions who have performed well deserve a pat on the back and we would encourage everyone to talk to their friends and family who are aged 50-74 and ask them if they’ve done their test – talking about poo isn’t taboo when it could save your life.

“Across Victoria we see significant disparities in participation rates. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that while participation has increased it still equates to only 4 in 10 completing their bowel screening test when it was sent to them in the mail.”

Cancer Council’s goal is to see all regions across the state have these high participation rates because we know that if we can increase participation across the country from 4 in 10 to 6 in 10, we could save 84,000 lives over the next 20 years.

“If you have the screening test at home and you’re yet to complete it, please do the test now,” Mr Harper added.

Today’s announcement comes alongside new Australian Government funding for an ongoing campaign to get more people participating in bowel screening.

Mr Harper added, “Cancer Council is very pleased to be working with the Australian Government to get more people participating in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and we hope the continued awareness from another campaign will help us in our mutual goal to achieve a cancer free future.”

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program delivers free screening kits to the homes of eligible Australians aged 50-74 every two years. The test is free, quick and hygienic and can be completed at home and returned in the post.

Top 10 regions with the highest participation rates, 2018-19 (%):

  1. Surf Coast - Bellarine Peninsula (55.1%)
  2. Gippsland – East (53.7%)
  3. Gippsland - South West (52.7%)
  4. Wangaratta – Benalla (52.4%)
  5. Heathcote - Castlemaine – Kyneton (51.2%)
  6. Banyule (50.9%)
  7. Macedon Ranges (50.9%)
  8. Ballarat (50.4%)
  9. Manningham – East (50.3%)
  10. Barwon – West (50.1%)

Regions with the greatest improvements in screening participation:

SA3 name

Participation 2016-17 (%)

State Region Ranking 2016-17

Participation 2018-19 (%)

State Region Ranking 2018-19

Participation increase (%)

Melbourne City

34.9

65

40.3

57

5.40

Stonnington - West

38.0

60

42.9

50

4.90

Brunswick - Coburg

38.4

57

43.0

49

4.60

Macedon Ranges

46.7

18

50.9

7

4.20

Glen Eira

39.3

53

43.4

48

4.10

Port Phillip

38.4

58

42.3

51

3.90

Surf Coast - Bellarine Peninsula

51.4

2

55.1

1

3.70

Mornington Peninsula

45.6

23

49.2

19

3.60

Geelong

44.8

31

48.3

26

3.50

Yarra Ranges

44.4

36

47.9

27

3.50