Here are the facts about a test that saved Michael Wade's life. It could save yours too.
Don’t think you need to get screened for bowel cancer because you’re fit, healthy and you have no family history? If you’re over 50, you may want to reconsider.
Michael Wade had just celebrated his 50th birthday, and was enjoying life to the full with his two young daughters and wife. It was around this time he received the National Bowel Cancer screening Program’s Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kit in the mail, but he was feeling fit and healthy and wasn’t aware of any family history of cancer, so he let the months slip by.
“I remember thinking what a great idea the test and screening program were, but hadn’t suffered any symptoms of bowel cancer, so I wasn’t in any rush,” he said.
It wasn’t until just after his 51st birthday, when he noticed the test kit was due to expire that he sent the test off for analysis. Within a few days, the results were sent back indicating a positive result.
Within just a week of diagnosis, Mike was referred for a colonoscopy.
“I was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer and I required bowel re-section surgery to remove the cancer and all nearby lymph nodes. This took place just five weeks from receiving the positive result of the screening test.”
“Having two little girls at home, it was very difficult to juggle treatment and hospital with family and work, but managed with the loving help from my wife and the support of all nursing staff, doctors, family and friends.”
Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. The good news is that if caught in time, 90 percent of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully. Luckily for Mike, he was able to catch the cancer before it had developed any further.
“I’m very thankful that I decided to do the test when I did."
“Without the screening program, I would have been completely unaware of the cancer until my symptoms had developed further, by which time the cancer may have become life threatening.”
Bowel cancer can affect men and women equally, of any age. People 50 and over are at higher risk. Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer, resulting in 75 deaths every week, according to Cancer Council Australia.
Symptoms can include unexplained tiredness, sudden weight loss, a change in bowel habit, abdominal pain or cramping, symptoms of anaemia or bleeding in the stools, but the cancer can develop long before symptoms appear.
If you are 50, 55, 60 and 65, the Australian Government will mail you an invitation to screen, which will include a FOBT - a simple test you can do at home. Simply follow the instructions and mail back the completed test in the envelope provided. And it’s completely free.
Even if you are not currently eligible for the program, you can still be tested. Just ask your GP who can request a kit.
It has now been six months since Mike’s initial operation and he is focusing on managing his diet and lifestyle to aid a full recovery.
“I highly recommend that all Australians take part in the bowel cancer screening program and carry out the simple, non-invasive test as soon as they turn 50.”
“Don’t put it off like I did, and don’t wait for symptoms to occur as this could be too late.”
“My story shows that a cancer diagnosis can be successfully treated. In my case, early detection, effective treatment and a positive outlook meant that I am now in good health and hopefully on my way to a full recovery.”
For more information, call 13 11 20 or visit www.bowelcancer.org.au