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Bowel cancer conversations could save lives

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Dr Sina Alexander Small 1

CONVERSATIONS about family history and personal health are the first steps in reducing Australia’s high rate of death caused by bowel cancer.

One in 23 will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime and more than 16,000 Australians were diagnosed last year with the disease, which kills 80 Australians every week.

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, highlighted with Red Apple Day on 20 June, when Australians are encouraged to raise awareness about the disease and support the vital work of Bowel Cancer Australia.

The Federal Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is an initiative that invites at-risk Australians to do a simple test at home, to help detect the disease early and reduce deaths. The free test kits are sent to all Australians aged between 50 and 74.

Gastroenterologist and Barwon Health Director of Endoscopy Sina Alexander said Geelong had a higher than average population of those aged over 50, which significantly increases the risk of bowel cancer, along with family history.

“Bowel cancer is the second leading cancer in Australian men and women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death,” he said.

“Early diagnosis results in a better outcome.”

Dr Alexander said it was estimated that the government’s NBCSP, once fully implemented and supported by the community, could prevent 500 deaths from bowel cancer every year.

“Participating in the NBCSP is one of the strategies available to reduce cancer risk. It is appropriate for those 50 or over, without bowel symptoms or a significant family history of bowel cancer,” Dr Alexander said.

“The vast majority who return a positive result do not have cancer, but those with a positive result need to have further assessment.

“It is also important to note there are other screening options that individuals need to discuss with their GPs to reach an informed decision on the most appropriate strategy for them.

“To reduce the risk, one should adopt a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and a diet low in fat diet, high in vegetables and fibre and avoid smoking and excess alcohol.”

Visit www.cancerscreening.gov.au and www.bowelcanceraustralia.org for more information.

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