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“A simple test can save your life”: bowel cancer still second biggest cancer killer

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Victoria, but early diagnosis and lifestyle changes could turn that around, according to a report published by the Cancer Council today.

The tragedy of bowel cancer deaths is that the condition has incredibly good outcomes if it is detected and treated early. It is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer yet 90% of cases can be treated successfully if detected early. This figure decreases to just 15% for stage-four diagnoses.

Detection is heavily reliant on pathology, which is essential both for faecal screening tests and to identify cancerous polyps on biopsy. In fact, every case of cancer is diagnosed by pathology.

The report also states that 30 Victorians a day died from cancer last year and obesity was a major risk factor. Over 1,000 of the new cancers diagnosed last year in Victoria were obesity related, which means an opportunity exists to intervene.

Cancer Council of Victoria CEO Todd Harper said bowel cancer was one of the cancers that people could reduce their risk factors for if they made lifestyle changes;

“It’s important for people to maintain a healthy body weight, be physically active and also eat a healthy diet. Reducing alcohol consumption is also important.”

Mr Harper also said more people need to participate in free screenings. Currently only around 38% of eligible Victorians are participating in the bowel screening program, which is available to everyone aged over 50. This could be due to people being put off by the test.

“I think we need to get across to people that this is a simple test that can save your life,” he said.