When it comes to bowel cancer screening in our community, we need to get our kit together. If detected early, more than 90% of cases can be treated successfully. For eligible community members aged 50-74, the kit is free and delivered right to your door. Despite this, many of us are simply not getting around to doing it and it’s increasing our community’s risk of bowel cancer. Do your bit. Use the kit.
IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR KIT TOGETHER
No ifs or butts about it, bowel cancer screening could save your life. This is a no mess, no stress test. Sassy Koori Queen, Nova Gina, and her crew are ready to press play and make your day. Watch our video and join the movement (literally).
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is a malignant growth that occurs generally in the lining of the large bowel. It usually develops from a polyp which can develop into cancer over time.
How common is it?
In NSW, 1 in 14 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer – it is the second biggest cancer killer in both Australia and NSW.*
Bowel cancer currently kills more people in NSW than prostate cancer, breast cancer or melanoma. But the good news is, if detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases. This is why it’s so important to do the bowel cancer screening test.
Data show that 91% of bowel cancers in NSW were found in people aged 50+. That’s why Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program sends a free bowel screening kit to your home every two years from the age of 50.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a free Australian Government initiative that aims to reduce bowel cancer deaths through early detection of the disease.
From the age of 50, everybody, regardless of gender or sexuality, needs to screen for bowel cancer. Although there are ways to reduce your risk of bowel cancer(see below), age is the number one risk factor. So, once you hit the big 5 – 0, you need to be screening every two years, until the age of 74.
Screening for bowel cancer is quick, easy and free using the kit that arrives right to your door. All you have to do to use the kit, is do a poo (actually, two), collect a sample from each, and pop the samples in the mail using the reply-paid envelope provided. It’s free, quick, clean and easy and you can do it from home.
Bowel cancer screening among LGBTQ people
Since there is a lack of data on bowel cancer among LGBTQ people both in Australia and worldwide, ACON conducted research among LGBTQ people aged 50-74. Almost a third of those we spoke to had never used the screening kits that they had received. Also, 42% of those we spoke to mistakenly believe they are not at risk of developing bowel cancer, with a further 35% being neutral about their perceived risk. Age is the number one risk factor for bowel cancer (50+), which means that even if you don’t smoke or drink, you exercise regularly, or are vegetarian, you are still at a higher risk once you are 50+. We all need to start bowel cancer screening at age 50 and continue to screen every two years until we are 74.
Here at ACON we’ve developed a bowel cancer screening campaign(see above) specifically for LGBTQ people to help keep our communities safe and healthy.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will automatically send a free Home Test Kit to your address, as recorded by Medicare or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, every two years.
Criteria for eligible recipients:
Are entitled to Medicare either as an Australian citizen or permanent resident
Have a current Medicare card or are registered as a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) customer; and
Have a mailing address in Australia
If you are eligible and haven’t received a kit, or if you have lost it, please contact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Contact Centre on 1800 627 701 or via the online contact form to request a new one.
If you are not eligible for the free Home Test Kit, it’s best to talk to your doctor about bowel cancer screening and what options are right for you. This may include purchasing a bowel screening test, for about $40.
To find out when you’ll get your free bowel cancer screening kit, click here.
What is the screening process?
The bowel cancer screening kit is a free, clean and easy test that arrives at your door for you to do in the comfort of your home. It looks for very small amounts of blood in the bowel motion (poo) that may be a sign of bowel cancer.
The kit contains everything you need to do the test easily and hygienically, including a simple how-to guide.
You collect two tiny samples of your poo, from two consecutive bowel movements (one sample from each poo) using the collection sticks provided in the kit. Keep your samples in the fridge (not freezer), until you post them back in the pre-paid envelope, and that’s it. Easy.
Need help or further info?
Check out this video on how to use the bowel cancer screening kit.
If you still need help using the kit, you can contact the Test Kit Helpline on 1800 930 998 (8:30am – 5pm Monday to Friday).
If you need information in another language, the Do The Test website is available in several languages:
The results are mailed to you and your doctor (if you provide their details). You will usually get your results within two weeks of posting your kit back. If you haven’t received your results within two weeks, you or your doctor can call the Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline on 1800 930 998 to get your results.
Understanding you results
If your test is negative, there’s nothing you need to do until you receive the next kit in two years’ time.
If your test is positive (i.e. blood was detected in your poo), you will need to visit your doctor to discuss next steps. Your doctor will usually refer you for a colonoscopy to help identify the cause of bleeding.
Occasionally, a result might come back as inconclusive, meaning the lab can’t analyse your sample. In this case, you’ll be sent a new kit within 4 to 10 weeks, so you can re-do the test.
For more information about understanding your test results, click here.
Your risk of bowel cancer increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. We know that LGBTQ communities drink more than the general population, which is putting us at a higher risk of bowel cancer and other health issues.* Reducing your alcohol intake reduces your risk of bowel cancer. If you want to reduce or stop drinking or are concerned about your drinking, Pivot Point, ACON’s resource for LGBTQ people, is a good place to start.
You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer (and many other health issues) through healthy eating and being physically active.
A high fibre diet can reduce your risk of bowel cancer. Aim for a high fibre diet which includes wholegrain, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts.
Regular exercise reduces the risk of bowel cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day where your heart rate is increased.
Consuming dairy products decreases your risk of bowel cancer. Evidence shows the more dairy products consumed the lower the risk of bowel cancer. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend mostly reduced fat dairy products for adults. If you are vegan or lactose intolerant, you might consider (vegan) calcium supplements instead.
Less Red Meat
Eating too much red meat and in particular processed meat, such as bacon, salami and ham, and charred meat, such as barbecued meat, is strongly linked with a high risk of bowel cancer. Limiting the amount of red meat you eat will reduce your risk of bowel cancer. If barbecuing meat, cook on a low heat to avoid fat dropping onto the flame and charring (blackening) the meat.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer, including bowel cancer, and many other health issues. People who smoke not only have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer, but have a higher risk of dying from bowel cancer. We know that LGBTQ people smoke more than the general population and this is putting us at a higher risk of cancer and other diseases.* Giving up smoking will decrease your risk of many health issues, and it’s never too late to quit – your body starts repairing itself within 6 hours.** If you are thinking about reducing or quitting smoking, ICanQuit, is a great place to start.
Although there is lots you can do to reduce your risk of bowel cancer, there are some risk factors you can’t change, which is why it is so important to screen. Getting older is the number one risk factor for bowel cancer – your risk of bowel cancer increases greatly from the age of 50, so even though it’s not the most exciting 50th birthday present, do your bit and use the kit as soon as it arrives.
Other factors such as family history, history of polyps, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions may affect your risk of bowel cancer. If you have questions about your risk and what is right for you, talk to your doctor about bowel screening.