Over a third of adults in NSW think bowel cancer is ‘dirty and embarrassing’, potentially reducing their chances of finding the disease at an early and treatable stage.
In new research by the Cancer Institute NSW, a survey of people aged 50–74 across the state shows some are even too embarrassed to seek help or information on the disease.
Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow, is concerned this embarrassment could be costing lives.
“There is an enormous stigma associated with bowel cancer that we need to be open about,” Professor Currow says.
“Unlike many other cancers, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers when diagnosed at an early stage.
“Detecting it early is the key. This means we need to encourage everyone, aged 50-74 to take the test as soon as it arrives in the post.”
Only one in three eligible people (34.5 per cent) in NSW are completing their free bowel cancer screening kit, despite almost everyone (98 per cent) agreeing that early treatment of bowel cancer increases chances of survival.
How common is bowel cancer in NSW?
Bowel cancer is common—it kills more people in NSW than prostate cancer, breast cancer or melanoma.
The most recent projections from the Cancer Institute NSW show that in 2021, there will be:
- 6,777 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in NSW
- 1,903 deaths from bowel cancer in NSW.
It is the second highest occurring cancer across NSW, with significant numbers in both men and women.
Reducing your risk of bowel cancer
Bowel cancer screening can detect cancers at an earlier stage, when up to 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.
But Professor Currow says that being unaware of the risk of developing bowel cancer may be putting people off taking action to catch it early.
“We have seen the number of deaths from bowel cancer decrease slowly over the past 10 years, but we have the opportunity to decrease the number of deaths dramatically if more people participate in bowel cancer screening.”
“Although it’s not a comfortable topic to talk about, it is important for us to keep the conversation going so that people in NSW can be reminded to take care of their health and be more vigilant with their screening.”
The National Bowel Cancer Screening program is a service which mails screening kits to people aged 50 to 74 years – it’s free and can be done without leaving home.
For more information and to check your eligibility, visit cancerscreening.gov.au or call 1800 118 868
Reducing the impact of bowel cancer is a key goal as part of the NSW Cancer Plan.