Western Qld residents urged to participate in bowel cancer screening program

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Get tested for bowel cancer as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

With Bowel Cancer Awareness Month being observed during June, Western Queensland residents are being urged to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Screening under the national program is free to all eligible men and women with a Medicare card and a postal address and who are aged between 50 and 74 years.

Eligible men and women are recommended to take part in the screening every two years.

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker said bowel cancer was the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second biggest cancer-related killer in Australia, but many of these deaths could be prevented.

“However, participation rates in our region are significantly lower than the Queensland average,” he said.

“The latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show the participation rate in the Outback South statistical region is only about 34 per cent, compared with the state-wide average of about 37.5 per cent and the Australian average of 40.9 per cent.

“The Outback South statistical region includes the Central West and South West hospital and health service regions.

“Indeed, participation rates in this region actually fell over the five years from 2016-17 to the most recent available statistics for 2020-21. In 2016-17, participation rates for the Outback South were 37.7 per cent.’’

Dr Walker said Western Queensland residents who received their free test in the mail should take the opportunity to use it.

“It takes just a few minutes of your time to do the test and mail it away, but it could save your
life,’’ he said.

“The aim of the test is to find evidence of cancers early.

“The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, and it can develop without any obvious symptoms.

“The bowel screening test looks for tiny traces of blood in your poo, which can be an indication of
common conditions such as polyps or haemorrhoids, but it could be a sign of bowel cancer.

“Importantly, a positive result in the screening kit does not mean you have bowel cancer.

“Only 1 in 29 people are found to have bowel cancer after following up on a positive screening

“If the test does indicate signs of a potential cancer, you will receive a letter recommending a
further test,
usually a colonoscopy, in order to either rule out or confirm a cancer is present.

“If that’s the case, we can organise for residents in the Central West region to have their
colonoscopy at Longreach Hospital, so they won’t have to travel outside the region to do it.

“The colonoscopy service has been in place at Longreach Hospital for many years now and is well established. It’s convenient, it’s close and has a quick turnaround.

“If no evidence of cancer is found, you will receive a letter to that effect.’’

(NOTE: In the South West, colonoscopies can be done at Roma, St George, and Charleville hospitals.)

To find out more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and the free bowel screening home test kits, visit the Bowel cancer screening and prevention website
or call 1800 627 701.