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Dear Santa, all we really want is Queenslanders’ poo

It is free - and it saves lives; yet Queenslanders are lagging behind most other jurisdictions for bowel cancer screening participation rates.

Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Preventative Health Branch Kaye Pulsford said the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) showed participation of Queenslanders aged between 50 and 74 in the Program sat at only 40.4 per cent.

“Although participation has increased in recent years, it remains slightly less than the national average of 40.9 per cent,” she said.

“Taking care of your health is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones this festive season.

“Given this potentially life-saving test is free and the screening kits arrive by post - and your number twos will also arrive regardless; then there really is no excuse not to be screened.”

Ms Pulsford since the NBCSP began in 2006, about 3.5 million screening tests have been completed and about 186,000 participants have undergone a diagnostic assessment following a positive screening result.

“We know most cancers detected through the NBCSP have been at the earliest stages, and we also know if found early up to 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated,” she said.

“This reaffirms the potential life-saving value of this free test to Queenslanders.

“About 80 Australians die each week from bowel cancer, with Queensland experiencing more than 3000 positive diagnoses and more than 1000 deaths in 2014.”

For 73-year-old Sandra Buurman a positive screening result was a potential lifesaver.

After battling ovarian cancer in 2014, Sandra thought she was done with the disease.

Although she didn’t have any symptoms, following the positive test she underwent a colonoscopy and three polyps were found, one of which was pre-cancerous.

“My doctor said I was very lucky the test came along at the time it did, it meant I had caught the cancer early,” Sandra said.

Sandra’s advice is clear: “It’s such a little amount of work for you to beat cancer. Just do the test.”

Unlike other common cancers such as breast, melanoma, or prostate, which have a 90 per cent chance of surviving at least five years, bowel cancer survival is only estimated as around 68 per cent; with the rate of successful treatment increasing to 90 per cent if detected early.

Ms Pulsford said there are some known risk factors for bowel cancer with the majority deriving from lifestyle choices.

“There are a proportion of cases – somewhere about 20 per cent, that are identified as hereditary, with the remainder being caused by choices that are usually within our ability to change,” she said.

Lifestyle factors associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • high intake of particular foods, such as processed meat
  • high alcohol consumption
  • smoking.

The NBCSP participation rates for 50 – 74 year olds are:

2015-16 40.4 % 40.9 %
2014-15 38.1 % 38.9 %
2013-14 36.6 % 37.4 %

The screening program is free to all eligible Australians with a Medicare card and a postal address. The NBCSP is currently expanding and by 2020 all eligible Australians aged 50 - 74 years will receive a free kit.

Screening is recommended every two years for men and women aged 50 - 74 years. For more information visit Bowel cancer screening and prevention.

Media contact: +61 7 3708 5376

Last updated: 11 December 2017