Bowel cancer screening test could save your life

Staff ReportersThe Kimberley Echo
Dr John Paparo, a bowel cancer survivor thanks to the test kits sent out by Medicare, with his wife Suzanne.
Camera IconDr John Paparo, a bowel cancer survivor thanks to the test kits sent out by Medicare, with his wife Suzanne. Credit: Sandie Bertrand/WA News

Kimberley residents have been urged to have a national bowel cancer screening test, as figures show only one in four eligible residents have done so.

The Kimberley is classified as a “hot zone”, so kits are only sent out in the cooler months and must be completed as soon as they arrive to ensure the samples don’t get damaged in the heat when the weather warms up.

Cancer Council WA’s Kimberley regional education officer Liz Bakowski said it was imperative people in the Kimberley aged between 50 and 74 do their free bowel cancer screening test every two years as part of the National Screening Program, when they receive the kit in the mail.

“Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 16,500 new diagnoses estimated in 2019, yet our data shows that only 24 per cent of eligible residents in the Kimberley are using the kit,” she said.

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“These low numbers are concerning, the test is quick, easy, and can be done in the privacy of your home.

“As with all cancers, the earlier bowel cancer is found, the greater the chance of successful treatment.”

Ms Bakowski said bowel cancer often develops without any early warning symptoms.

“Screening is for healthy people without symptoms. In fact, participating in screening when you have symptoms can delay cancer diagnosis and treatment,” she said.

“If you notice blood in your poo or have had any other symptoms for more than three weeks, such as runny poo, a change in bowel habits, an unusual pain, lump or swelling in the tummy, unexplained weight loss, tiredness, or loss of appetite, you need to visit your GP without delay and not participate in screening.

“The more we talk about bowel cancer, the symptoms, and the importance of using the screening kit when you receive it, the more lives we’ll save.”

To reduce overall cancer risk, but especially for bowel cancer, CCWA encouraged everyone to reduce their intake of alcohol as well as red and processed meat while maintaining a healthy weight.

Other lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing the disease include smoking, not including enough fibre in your diet and a lack of physical activity.

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