June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, and the North West Hospital and Health Service is urging people in the North West to take advantage of the free bowel testing screening kits and participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which targets men and women 50 to 74 years old.
Less than a quarter of eligible people in North West HHS participate, making us the second worst region in the state for taking part in the National Program.
For people who should be starting the program in their fifties, only one in six are returning their free testing kit, and the numbers improve gradually to one in three by the time they get to their seventies. Less than one in 10 people who complete the test need further examination of their bowel through a colonoscopy.
Executive Director of Medical Services and Clinical Governance for the NWHHS, Associate Professor Alan Sandford said patients can get a referral for a free colonoscopy at Mount Isa Hospital, through their GPs in clinically indicated cases.
It is free - and it saves lives - yet Queenslanders are lagging behind most other jurisdictions for bowel cancer screening participation rates.
Acting Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Preventive Health Branch Mark West said that since the NBCSP began in 2006, about 4.4 million screening tests have completed, 234,000 participants have undergone a diagnostic assessment following a positive screening, 33,000 precancerous adenomas have been removed and almost 8000 participants were diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Mr West said this reaffirmed 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 2015,” he said.
Mr West said 20% were hereditary but the remainder caused by lifestyle choices such as being physically inactive, being overweight, high intake of particular foods such as processed meat, high alcohol consumption and smoking.