Wheatbelt residents encouraged to 'Find Cancer Early' in 2020

Cancer Council WA is asking people over 40 in regional WA to make their health a priority in the first month of the new decade by familiarising themselves with the two different ways to detect cancer early.

Cancer Council WA's Wheatbelt regional education officer Melissa Pickering said one way to detect cancer early was to be symptom aware and visit your local medical clinic if symptoms exist.

The said the second way was to participate in population screening.

"The Find Cancer Early program aims to increase awareness of the symptoms of the five most common cancers - prostate, breast, skin, bowel and lung cancer - which make up around 60 per cent of cancer diagnoses in WA," she said.

Ms Pickering recommended people be symptom aware in 2020 by printing off the cancer symptom checklist from www.findcancerearly.com and putting it on the bathroom mirror or fridge as a regular reminder.

She said a 2019 survey showed 1 in 9 regional WA people surveyed didn't have their symptoms investigated due to an assumption that participation in population screening was sufficient.

"With bowel and breast screening programs occurring at two year intervals, this leaves 1 in 9 regional Western Australians at risk of a later stage cancer diagnosis due to confusion around when and how to respond to the symptoms of common cancers," she said.

Cancer Council WA recommends the following if you experience any of the below symptoms:

  • If you find blood in your poo, blood in your pee or you've coughed up blood, even just on one occasion, it needs to be discussed with a doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker straight away.
  • If for more than three weeks you have noticed any changes to your bowel habits, including runny poo, pooing more often or constipation, make an appointment at your local medical clinic.
  • Similarly, if for more than four weeks you've noticed problems peeing, unexplained weight loss, an unusual pain, lump or swelling anywhere in your body, or you are short of breath or have a persistent cough, see a doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker.

"If you do have a symptom, visit your GP, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker straight away," she said.

"Whatever the outcome, it's best to find out what's going on early and get onto any recommended treatment. If it turns out to be nothing you've got peace of mind and you can save yourself the uncertainty of the 'wait and see' approach.

"It's important to remember screening tests like bowel cancer screening kits and mammograms are designed for people who aren't experiencing symptoms.

"If you don't have any symptoms and you're eligible, please participate in screening.

"Remember, the earlier cancer is found, the greater the chance of successful treatment."