1 IN 2
IS TOO MANY

1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer by age 85.
Donate now

Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elder encourages Mob to do the free bowel cancer screening test and seek support

Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elder and bowel cancer survivor Perry is urging Aboriginal Victorians to prioritise bowel screening to help them live long, healthy lives.

With a family history of cancer – both his father and uncle had prostate cancer – Perry knew how important it was to be aware of any changes to his body and keep up to date with cancer screening.

After putting off doing bowel screening for several years, Perry’s mate Terry encouraged him to do the bowel screening test kit.

“It was sitting in the drawer [and I thought] ‘oh I'll do that next week’. Terry nagged and nagged me, and it was about 12 months later that I went and did it,” Perry said.

Perry’s test came back positive, and at the age of 60 he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“It’s a scary thing to be told you’ve got cancer – lucky it was in the early stages,” he said.

“I felt safe at the hospital [during my treatment], the nurses were all absolutely fantastic. They were a great support – anything I wanted to know about or that I was worrying about, the nurses were there to help me.”

Perry also highly recommended the experienced nurses on Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support line to anyone affected by cancer who has a question.

“The value of those people, it’s just unbelievable. If you do need help, please call the nurses on 13 11 20. They’re only a stone's throw away, just dial it,” he said.

Unfortunately, Perry later found out that he also had melanoma.

“It was the second bout of cancer that knocked me around for three months. I felt like the walking dead, but I fought back,” he said.

“It’s something that turns your life around. I didn’t know if I could handle it. Thankfully I had a good family backing me.

“I was scared whether I had it, but I’m glad I did the test because I might not even be here. I’m a survivor. I still go fishing, can chop wood and do as much as I can. Life hasn’t changed.”

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that bowel screening rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain considerably low at 27.3%.

“Bowel screening saved my life, and it can save yours. It’s free and so easy to do. If I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

People aged 50-74 receive a free bowel screening test kit in the mail every two years as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

From July 1, people aged 45 to 49 will be eligible to screen with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Eligible people can request their first bowel screening kit at www.ncsr.gov.au/boweltest.

Perry stressed how it was important to talk to each other about health and bowel screening and to do the test kit as soon as it came in the mail, with Aboriginal Victorians twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and three times as likely to die from cancer than non-Aboriginal Victorians.

“You would hear people had it but think ‘nah I won’t get it’. It’s not until it affects one of your family members that you understand why it’s important to get [cancer awareness] out there to all of Mob,” he said.

“I know a lot of Aboriginal people will not talk about cancer. I’m open-minded about things and if someone has cancer, I will try to find out about how they’re going and how they’re feeling. All I have to do is tell them what I’ve been through.”

Speaking to those newly diagnosed with cancer, Perry again stressed the importance of reaching out to Cancer Council’s experienced cancer nurses through the 13 11 20 support line.

“All you have to do is just ring up. If you need information or you’re frightened, you don’t have to say who you are. Just talk to the right people,” he said.

Cancer Council’s compassionate 13 11 20 cancer nurses are committed to providing culturally safe and responsive support and you can call them for free, Monday to Friday, 9am—5pm. You can ask an Aboriginal Health Worker or another Community member to support you with the call if you wish.

Perry also encouraged all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to go to Cancer Council Victoria’s Aboriginal communities webpage for information on what they should expect when they have, or might have, cancer.

This case study was developed with support from the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO).

Talking bubbles icon

Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse