Bowel Cancer Awareness Week starts this Sunday (8 June) and the Cancer Council is calling on all 50 year-olds to take up the new screening opportunity offered by the expanded National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
Australians aged 50, 55 and 65 can now be screened for bowel cancer free of charge, as part of the Australian Government’s $87 million budget commitment to bowel cancer screening. Previously only 55 and 65 year-olds were eligible for screening.
Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Committee, Alison Peipers, said when Australians aged 50 received their free faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit in the mail, they should take advantage of what might prove to be a life saving opportunity.
“Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers and second deadliest cancer after lung cancer, claiming more than 80 Australian lives a week,” Ms Peipers said. “Taking this simple test in the privacy of your home could literally save your life.”
Ms Peipers said while expansion of the screening program was a positive development, the Government needed to follow through on its commitment to screen all Australians 50 and over, which the Cancer Council believed was feasible within four years.
“The evidence is clear all Australians aged 50 and over should be screened; a fully operational program could prevent more than a third of bowel cancer deaths, saving up to 30 lives a week.
“For Australians over 50 who aren’t eligible for free screening, we recommend they talk to their GP about purchasing a test kit or call the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20*) for information.”
According to Ms Peipers, Bowel Cancer Awareness Week was not only about screening, but also what people could do to reduce their risk of bowel cancer. “We know that overweight and obesity are risk factors, so adopting a healthier lifestyle can reduce risk, such as maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating well and drinking less alcohol.”
“Of course, if you notice any symptoms, such as blood in a bowel motion or an unexplained change in bowel habits, contact your GP straight away.”
(Source: Cancer Council Australia: June 2008)