Don’t die of embarrassment - this simple test could save your life.
Ask someone about the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they probably won’t be able to tell you much.
Despite being one of the most preventable and treatable cancers if caught early, bowel cancer remains Australia’s second biggest killer after lung cancer, with an estimated 17,000 new cases to be diagnosed this year. Every year, bowel cancer claims the lives of over 4000 Australians.
Bowel cancer remains something that people don’t like to talk about, and discussing intimate bodily functions with a stranger isn’t easy, even if it is your doctor.
But now, getting tested has never been easier – in fact, you can do the initial test by yourself, in the comfort of your own home, and at no cost.
If you are 50, 55, 60 and 65, the Australian Government will be mailing you an invitation to screen, which will include a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kit.
The FOBT kit is a simple test you can do at home which looks for traces of blood in a bowel motion. Simply follow the instructions and mail back the completed test in the envelope provided. Most positive test results do not turn out to be cancer. However, if bowel cancer is diagnosed, it’s twice as likely to be picked up early through the screening program and be treated successfully. In fact, 90 percent of bowel cancers can be cured if found early.
Bowel cancer can affect men and women of any age, however Australians 50 and over are at higher risk of bowel cancer. Of the 277 new cases diagnosed every week, 77 people will die, and 1 in 12 of us will receive bowel cancer diagnoses during our lifetime.
Even if you don’t have any symptoms such as bleeding, abdominal cramps, bloating, unexplained tiredness or changes or no family history of cancer, it’s still important to get tested as there are often no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
If you are not currently eligible for the program, you can still be tested. Your GP can request a FOBT kit. Most pathology practices bulk bill for the test.
More age groups will be added over the next six years and by 2020, the test should be available free (once every two years) to all Australians aged 50 to 74.
If your test is positive, you and your nominated GP will be advised. Your GP will then refer you for further investigation. Most positive test results do not turn out to be cancer.
However, if bowel cancer is diagnosed, it’s twice as likely to be picked up early through the screening program and be treated successfully.
Most colorectal cancers are said to arise from polyps, small growths in the colon or bowel, which are present in around one third of the population. Obesity, diet and lack of exercise are all thought to be contributory factors.
For tips on prevention through diet and lifestyle, as well as more information on the FOBT test, call 13 11 20 or visit bowelcancer.org.au