Many Australians not using free bowel cancer testing kits

Bowel cancers affect thousands each year in Australia. Around 16,000 new diagnoses are made annually with huge number of people dying from this cancer. To curb the delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer that leads to less successful treatment outcomes, the Department of Health has been providing free, at-home testing kits for people aged between 50 and 75 years since 2006.

A recent survey from the Cancer Institute of New South Wales has found that 40 percent of the individuals who received the kit did not end up getting tested for the cancer using the kits.

Image Credit: Alila Medical Media / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Alila Medical Media / Shutterstock

The report says that this test kit is easy to use and is potentially life-saving as it can detect the cancer early when chances of the treatment being successful is higher. The kit includes containers in which stool samples are to be sent for screening. According to health officials, results from the stool sample testing are sent back to the person. If there is any significant finding, say experts, such as blood in the stool sample, the user is urged to follow up. Usually the person is asked to visit specialists and follow it up with a colonoscopy.

The report from NSW Cancer Registry suggests that around 60 percent of individuals are detected with bowel cancer once it’s advanced to a stage when treatment is not much effective and the cancer has spread to organs apart from the bowel. This effort on the part of department of health was an attempt to reduce the number of deaths by detecting the cancer early when it can be treated more effectively.

The report says that the test takes only three minutes and is still being ignored by such a large number of individuals who may be at risk. While a sizable number of people said they did not have the time, 15 percent said that they forgot to take the test. A further 3 percent of the vulnerable population felt the test was too embarrassing and did not go for it. Around 1 percent did not go for the step because they had no symptoms and 10 percent did not go for the test because they had recently had a clean colonoscopy result.

Professor David Currow, Chief Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW explained that the test is vital for older adults. He said that in 90 percent of cases, an early detection can save the life of the person. Professor Currow urged, “…please don't leave these kits in your drawer or wait until you are experiencing symptoms.”

Christopher Horn, Bowel Cancer Screening Manager at Cancer Institute NSW urged people that this was a quick and easy test which was clean and hassle free. He said that people who have had a recent colonoscopy may feel that this test is unimportant, but that is not the case. Screening for bowel cancer is still important he said. He warned that most people who develop bowel cancer may have no symptoms.

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