Cancer Council aims to combat nation's second biggest cancer killer with new campaign

Awareness boost: Cancer Council WA Wheatbelt education officer Melissa Pickering promoting  the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program at the ‘ Balance for Better’ International Women s Day Event at Toodyay CRC on Friday, March 8. Photo: Supplied.

Awareness boost: Cancer Council WA Wheatbelt education officer Melissa Pickering promoting the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program at the ‘ Balance for Better’ International Women s Day Event at Toodyay CRC on Friday, March 8. Photo: Supplied.

With only four in 10 eligible Australians participating in Australia's National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Cancer Council has launched an urgent call for more Australians to complete the free life-saving test.

The new national campaign funded by a $10 million Federal Government grant will be the biggest campaign ever run in Australia to promote bowel cancer screening.

It will include two TV advertisements, one which has already proven its lifesaving potential in Victoria.

New research shows that a 2017 Cancer Council Victoria campaign delivered over seven-weeks resulted in approximately 12,500 extra Victorians screening for bowel cancer during the campaign period, potentially saving more than 300 people from developing bowel cancer and more than 180 from dying of bowel cancer.

Cancer Council Australia chair Anita Dessaix said that Australia's National Bowel Cancer Screening Program promised to be one of the most important cancer control initiatives in Australian history - but more Australians needed to take part.

"Bowel cancer is Australia's second biggest cancer killer," Ms Dessaix said.

"Many people don't realise it kills more Australians each year than breast, prostate or skin cancer.

"When you receive the test don't put it in the cupboard and forget about it - delaying can easily become ignoring, forgetting and ultimately not doing."

"The test is quick, simple and you can complete it in the comfort of your own home.

"We know that after doing the test, 77 per cent of people go on to repeat the test when next invited."

The bowel cancer screening test detects blood in poo, which can be a sign of pre-cancerous lesions and cancers in the early stages and often these don't have any symptoms. 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if caught in the early stages.

The mass media campaign, which includes TV, radio, digital and social media advertising, will run over three separate seven-week bursts in 2019, with further communications support from Cancer Council, including outreach to GPs to encourage them to get their patients to do the test.

Tailored materials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians will also be incorporated and advertisements are also being developed in Greek, Arabic, Italian, Cantonese and Mandarin.

The Australian Government commenced a phased-in roll-out of Australia's free screening program in 2006, with the final two age groups (52 and 56-year olds) added to the program for the first time this year.

This means in 2019, people aged 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74 will be sent the free test in the mail.

From next year, free bowel screening kits will be sent on a two-yearly basis to all eligible Australians aged 50 to 74.

To help raise awareness of bowel cancer and increase participation in the screening program, Cancer Council WA is offering funding to community groups to host a local event.

The funding aims to bring the community together to enjoy a healthy lifestyle activity as well as provide information on bowel cancer screening.

Contact Cancer Council Wheatbelt regional education officer Melissa Pickering on 9574 5392 or mpickering@cancerwa.asn.au or go to www.cancerwa.asn.au for more information.