Embracing the classic ‘poo joke’ is key to boosting bowel cancer screening rates in NSW, according to comedian Dave O’Neil.
“They’ve done research and people think it’s a bit icky to talk about poo, but it’s time to stop the taboo on poo,” he proudly proclaims, in a new campaign by the Cancer Institute NSW.
“I know what you’re saying, “I don’t want to hear all this disgusting poo talk!”
“But why not? Embrace the poo.”
It’s bathroom humour for a good cause, but Dave is quick to point out there is nothing funny about bowel cancer.
Having just turned 50 he says things like this are now more at the forefront of his mind.
He has done the bowel cancer screening test – he even notes that it’s becoming part of the routine for many of the Australian comedians he’s made his career alongside.
“It’s a big killer that people don’t know about,” he says.
“We’re trying a humorous approach to help get the message out there a bit further.”
Data from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program reveals NSW has the second lowest bowel cancer screening rates in Australia.
If participation rates for the screening program reach 60% nationwide it could save 90,000 lives over the next forty years  – currently NSW’s participation rate is 33%.
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia, with around 80 Australians dying every week, but if detected early up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated.
How does bowel cancer screening work?
Bowel cancer screening is an easy, private test that people between the ages of 50-74 will receive for free in the mail.
It helps to detect bowel cancer early by finding whether blood is present in your stool sample.
How do you do it? Maybe Dave says it best.
“It’s a very simple test,” Dave explains.
“The Government send it to you in the mail, you get a little stick, you put it in the poo, you put it in a tube and then you send it through the mail.
“A turd in the post! To the Government! Haven’t you always wanted to do that?”
The test is the immunochemical faecal occult blood test (FOBT), and it’s currently recognised as the most sensitive screening test for use in population screening. 
When do I receive my screening kit?
In 2016 people aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 will receive a free screening kit in the mail, around the time of their birthday.
The remaining age groups will be included from 2017 to 2019, meaning more people will be screened and more lives will be saved.
By 2020 all eligible Australians aged 50 to 74 will be invited to screen for bowel cancer every two years using a free FOBT in the privacy of their home.
 Cenin DR, St John J, Slevin T et al. Optimising the expansion of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Med J Aust 2014;201:456-61.
 HealthPACT report. July 2015. Blood and stool based biomarker testing for colorectal cancer. Queensland Department of Health.