Experts dismayed - simple test can stop Australians from dying
10 May 2012
More Australians die of bowel cancer than road trauma each year according to Australia’s leading colorectal expert.
But a simple test at home could help reduce the 5000 Australians who lose their lives to bowel cancer annually.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Head of Colorectal Medicine and Genetics, Professor Finlay Macrae, said he and his colleagues were at a loss to explain why Australians were not testing themselves for bowel cancer.
“Bowel cancer kits are readily available to Australians, however few are taking up the opportunity to test themselves for this life threatening disease,” Professor Macrae said.
“We know that those who accept and do a Faecal Occult Blood Test can expect a 33 per cent reduction in the chance of dying from bowel cancer compared to those who don’t do the test.
“Bowel cancer is the most common internal cancer to affect both men and women and is the second biggest cancer killer of Australians.
“We now have the means to test for bowel cancer that is simple and easy to do at home and yet the number of people who don’t do the test is startling and they could sadly die from the disease.”
The Royal Melbourne Hospital today launched its You never know when you’ll need us - Bowel Cancer Surveillance campaign, aimed at motivating Victorians who keep putting off doing a bowel cancer screening test to do it now.
The Federal Government currently funds a one off test for 50, 55 and 65 year olds and is set to extend the program to 74 year olds over the next four years. However, kits are available to all Australians through a GP or through the Cancer Council (13220).
Professor Macrae said the Federal Government’s announcement to extend the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program could save 1200 lives annually.
“A National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is not only cost effective, but given the escalating costs of new drugs for established cancer, the lives that can be saved far outweigh the expense,” he said.
"We welcome the extension of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to immediately include those turning 60 years and then expanding the program by 2017-18 to include testing in age groups 50 to 74, every two years – thus meeting NHMRC guidelines.
“Currently, The Royal Melbourne Hospital picks up the gaps in the federal program through our Bowel Cancer Surveillance service, which works with individuals and families who have high risk of bowel cancer. We will continue to provide this life saving service.
“However, regardless of age the bowel cancer message is simple, if you have noticed changes in your bowel habits or have a family history of bowel cancer, get tested today – one simple test could save your life.”
For more information about The Royal Melbourne Hospital Bowel Cancer Surveillance service phone 9342 8423 or to request a BowelScreen test kit visit www.bowelcanceraustralia.org
To make a donation to The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Bowel Cancer Surveillance Service visit http://www.rmhfoundation.org.au
Media contact: Melea Tarabay, Media Relations Manager, 03 9342 7469/ 0407 860 687