Cancer Council SA Urges South Aussies to do bowel cancer test

By Our Reporter
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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

While latest data shows we’re above the national screening average, some suburbs are still not getting the message that a simple test could save their life.

June is Bowel Cancer Month and Cancer Council SA is urging South Australians to take action and do their free, two yearly bowel cancer screening test.

Latest data shows that South Australia’s screening rate is 47.5%, more than 5% above the national average of 42.4%—however some areas are still not getting the screening message.

South Australian regions like Playford and Outback North and East are of greatest concern, with screening rates of 37.8% and 39.4% respectively.

Despite being the second biggest cancer killer in the state, claiming over 400 South Australian lives every year, up to 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if caught early.

Unlike other cancer screening programs, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that anyone who was due to receive the test this year will still receive it in the post.

Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Lincoln Size urged South Australians to do the test, particularly those who may have put it off due to concerns about COVID-19.

“The best way to detect bowel cancer is with the simple but life-saving Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) which is sent out every two years as a part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. A FOBT detects invisible signs of blood in your stool, which can be an early symptom of bowel cancer.”

Size said people aged 50-74 are sent a free home test kit in the mail every two years and it’s important they do the test as soon as they receive it. “It’s important that even during times of social distancing, we keep up with our regular screening checks to make sure that if we are diagnosed with cancer, it’s detected early and treatment can be most effective,” he said.

“Bowel cancer risk can be influenced by a range of lifestyle choices. These lifestyle choices won’t determine if you will or won’t develop bowel cancer, but research suggests that they can help reduce your risk”
— Nat von Bertouch, SA Dietitian

It’s not all bad news, with many regions across the state screening at above average rates, including Fleurieu—Kangaroo Island (54.7%), Yorke Peninsula (54.1%), Holdfast Bay (53.5%), Mitcham (51.6%) and Burnside and Tea Tree Gully (50.9%). Mr Size said that the data is promising, but there’s still more work to be done.

“South Australia’s average screening rate is the second highest in the country, however we can still do better. We know that the National Bowel Cancer Screening program has the potential to prevent 83,800 bowel cancer deaths by 2040 if program participation increases to 60% across the country.”

Bowel Cancer Month is not only a great reminder to do your screening test—it’s also a great opportunity to make small changes to improve your overall bowel health. Cancer Council SA Dietitian Nat von Bertouch says a combination of regular screening plus simple lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your bowel cancer risk in the long term.

“Bowel cancer risk can be influenced by a range of lifestyle choices. These lifestyle choices won’t determine if you will or won’t develop bowel cancer, but research suggests that they can help reduce your risk. For many of us, there are simple improvements we can make every day that can make a huge difference to our overall health.”

Eating a healthy diet high in fibre and limiting red meat intake, limiting or avoiding processed meat, doing regular physical activity, limiting or abstaining from alcohol, being smoke free and maintaining a healthy weight are all ways to cut your risk, said Bertouch.

“With so much going on in the world at the moment, taking care of your health is now more important than ever before. This Bowel Cancer Month, we’re urging all South Australians to do the test and look after their health—it really could save your life.”

South Australians are encouraged to contact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program on 1800 118 868 to check their eligibility, find out when their test kit will arrive, or request a replacement. Doctors and Aboriginal Health Practitioners are also able to provide information about bowel cancer screening.


For more information on Bowel Cancer Month visit cancersa.org.au/bowel-cancermonth

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