Come on guys, we can do a lot better than this when it comes to bowel cancer testing.
Eighty Australians die every month from the disease, but only 40% of us who receive the free testing kit in the mail on our 50th are bothering to use it.
Take it from me – I’ve also had a colonoscopy in recent months – this is a simple procedure you can do in the privacy of your own home in a matter of minutes that could save your life.
“The results are disappointing,” concurs Cancer Australia chief executive Dr Helen Zorbas.
“We have a test that’s potentially lifesaving, in relation to bowel cancer, which is the second most common cancer in Australia and the second-highest cause of cancer death in Australia.”
Dr Zorbas says that is a real concern because bowel cancer survival is significantly improved when the disease is detected and treated early.
The incidence of bowel cancer is increasing in Australia, with almost 15,000 people expected to be diagnosed this year.
Men are more likely to be diagnosed and die from bowel cancer, but they are also less likely than women to participate in bowel cancer screening.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program urges people between ages 50 and 74, eligible for a free bowel cancer screening, to make use of it.
Mum’s message to others
WA mum Donna Porteous, 52, admits she probably wouldn’t be alive today if she hadn’t participated.
Just a couple of months after her 50th, she sent off her samples prior to leaving on a holiday of lifetime to Europe.
Upon our arrival home, she had a letter from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program telling her that she had a positive test and needed to see her GP.
“Having to tell my family – my children – that I have bowel cancer was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” says Donna.
“You put on a brave face, reassure everyone that you are going to be okay, that hopefully we’ve caught it early enough, yet deep inside you’re afraid that you may be wrong.
“Anxiety gets the better of you at night and wakes you from your sleep. You look at those you love and lock away into your memory that lovely smile, or that beautiful hug that you have just received. You cherish every minute you spend with them.
“All of a sudden the things that used to seem important or cause stress and worry no longer matter – all you want is to be able to able to continue to enjoy life with your family and friends, to give love, receive love and watch your loved ones enjoy life and grow old with my husband. Thanks to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program I now have that opportunity.”
Donna, however, is still surprised by the apathy toward testing.
“I would ask you all to take the test when you receive it. It has saved my life. In turn, I want to help save yours. If someone you know doesn’t want to take the test tell them my story. The test took a few minutes of my time but it has given me many years now to enjoy my family.”
Cancer Australia says if bowel cancer is detected at the earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is 93 per cent.
- Each year, Bowel Cancer Australia dedicates the month of June to raising much needed awareness and funds for bowel cancer. For more information click here.