New research shows that most Australians over the age of 50 do not test for bowel cancer because they feel well and don’t display any symptoms – but doctors warn that they may be unnecessarily putting their lives at risk.
According to the research, about a third of people in the at-risk age group have not even thought about undergoing tests or speaking to their GPs about bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is advanced and is difficult to treat.
“Testing for bowel cancer is important as it can detect disease in its early stages – before symptoms appear – when it is still possible to make a full recovery,” said Dr Cameron Bell, a gastroenterologist at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
“Just as testing for breast, prostate, skin and ovarian cancer is now the norm, testing for bowel cancer should also be routine for all Australians aged over 50 years,” he said.
Dr Bell added that testing for bowel cancer is not as messy or embarrassing as most people think.
“We are saying it is as simple as 1, 2, 3: one home test, every two years, can save three Australian lives a day,” he said.
Bowel cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia with over 4,000 lives lost to the disease every year.
Many of these lives could be saved if more Australians participated in bowel cancer screening.
Bowel Cancer Awareness Week runs from 8 to 14 June.