Red-faced Canberrans avoid “messy” bowel cancer tests

Ella Wallace’s bowel cancer was treated successfully after early detection. Photo: Melissa Adams Ella Wallace’s bowel cancer was treated successfully after early detection. Photo: Melissa Adams
Nanjing Night Net

Ella Wallace’s bowel cancer was treated successfully after early detection. Photo: Melissa Adams

Ella Wallace’s bowel cancer was treated successfully after early detection. Photo: Melissa Adams

A large number of Australians are avoiding free tests for the country’s second biggest cancer killer – and it may simply be to avoid embarrassment.

Bowel Cancer Australia data released on Thursday revealed only 43 per cent of males and 34 per cent of females surveyed had screened for bowel cancer despite the majority falling in the high-risk age group.

The reason? More than three quarters of respondents believed people avoided the tests because they are messy and embarrassing, despite the disease claiming nearly 4000 Australian lives each year.

Bowel Cancer Australia has launched a new awareness campaign – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late – to encourage more people to prioritise bowel cancer tests.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides Australians aged 50 or older with free screening kits.

The organisation independently surveyed 1206 people aged 40 to 70 years to retrieve the data.

In the 2011-2012 year, 5717 Canberrans participated in the national screening program, 353 testing positive, according to the Department of Health.

Between 2008 and 2012, 128 Canberrans aged 74 and under died from bowel cancer.

Canberra colourectal surgeon Dr David Rangiah said there was a general reluctance about anything bowel related.

But screening and early detection could save lives.

“Anything related to bowels, I think that puts people off,” he said.

“I certainly think we’re behind other screening programs in terms of acceptance. Once people become aware it’s a really simple test to do … and it’s a private thing to do, it will become more acceptable.”

Dr Rangiah said the relatively new screening program involved gathering a small amount of fecal matter in a sealed bag and sending it to the organisation for testing.

He said anyone with bowel cancer symptoms such as bleeding, changing bowel movements or severe abdominal pain should see a doctor, even if they participated in the screening program or were younger than 50.

“Above age 50, incidents of bowel cancer really take off – age is probably the highest risk factor,” he said.

“But we are seeing an increase in incidents of bowel cancer below age 50, particularly among people in their 40s. Although it’s relatively uncommon, it shouldn’t be ignored.”

Franklin mother of two Ella Wallace knows firsthand the importance of seeking help straight away.

At 39 she is well below the typical bowel cancer age bracket. She discovered she had cancer almost five years ago.

“I had just given birth to my second daughter, she was four months old … and I was just about to go back to work after maternity leave,” she said.

“I noticed the smallest amount of blood on a tissue. I mentioned it to my husband. Right away, he said to get it checked. I never once thought it would be bowel cancer.”

A colonoscopy revealed the worst. Luckily, Ms Wallace’s cancer was at stage where it was operable and treatable.

Life is back to normal although she’s still at the watch and act stage.

“There’s a stigma that goes with colon cancer. I’m not male, I’m not 50 to 60 years old,” she said.

“Prevention is obviously the best cure and catching it early is so important. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are currently closed.