Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Time to do the test
Published at: 09 Jun 2020
AUSTRALIA’S SECOND DEADLIEST CANCER IS ONE OF THE MOST TREATABLE, BUT THE KEY IS DETECTING IT EARLY.
June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and while it normally sees a spike in testing, 2020 is different.
This year GV Health Bowel Cancer Support Nurse Katie Emanuelli will not be talking at men’s sheds, there will be no inflatable big bowel coming to town and with people working from home Red Apple Day may not have the same impact.
In this new normal, there are still things that are not normal, and Ms Emanuelli said this testing was crucial to avoiding preventable deaths.
With her role funded through the Shepparton Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch in memory of James Georgopoulos who lost his life to the disease aged just 25, she is dedicated to raising awareness that while risk increases significantly with age, bowel cancer affects all.
“It’s not an old man’s disease, it doesn‘t discriminate, it affects men and women, and young and old,” she said.
How is coronavirus changing the way people approach bowel health?
Ms Emanuelli: GPs are finding they‘re getting less people coming through, so one of the things Bowel Cancer Australia has recommended is that people can ring and speak to the ward clerk first and let them know what‘s going on and then get in there.
What can people be doing?
Ms Emanuelli: The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program sends out testing kits to people ages 50 to 74 in the mail. Most people have the bowel screening kit in the drawer so if they’ve got so much time at home, they could be doing those bowel screening kits. You actually don't have to see somebody to drop it off, you just have to put it in the mailbox.
Why don't more Australians participate in screening?
Ms Emanuelli: Only four out of 10 people actually do the bowel screening tests. I don’t know whether it‘s fear of doing it or the 'ick' factor of testing your poo but it’s a simple and easy test that you can do at home.
What symptoms do people need to wary of?
Ms Emanuelli: Blood in the stools, changes in bowel habits, weight loss are the main things to be looking at but any changes that are particular for the patient. If anyone‘s had those for more than two weeks, we‘d encourage them to go to their GP. Sometimes bowel cancer doesn’t have any symptoms, hence the importance of doing the screening, and if people do have some symptoms they need to get along to their GP promptly, so they can be tested, and treatment can start early if that‘s what needs to be.