A bum note

One in twelve Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer by the time they reach 85 years of age. And, if caught in time, 90% of cases can be treated successfully. Screening is the biggest weapon to fighting bowel cancer, yet the Federal Government have ceased to fund the program. With so many people dying from a disease which can be treated if caught early enough, YOURLifeChoices asked Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health and Ageing, why funding was no longer available.

Q. With 80 people dying from bowel cancer each week, why has funding been withdrawn?

Response received from the Office of Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health and Ageing

Bowel cancer is a major health issue affecting many Australians and the Government recognises that early detection by screening remains the best way to fight bowel cancer.

• In the 2008 Budget, we provided funding of $87.4 million over three years to extend the existing National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) to cover up to 2.5M Australians turning 50, 55 and 65 years of age between 2008 and 2010.

• The Government will consider future funding for the program in the context of the 2011 Budget.

YOURLifeChoices comment
Consideration for future funding is all well and good but surely the answer is not to reflect on the past glories but to have secured future funding for a successful and seemingly cost effective program before the financial lifeline ran out.

Any successful program needs to be accompanied by a campaign to raise awareness and the best way to do this is by offering free testing to those most at risk. Self-testing kits can be purchased for $36.95 but realistically how many Australians will think to get themselves tested, let alone be able to afford the kit.

There is also the reluctance to discuss socially or with a GP any changes to bowel habits. However public awareness of what may constitute early signs of bowel cancer is often enough to make people overcome their embarrassment.

While the target age group for the previous Federal Government campaign was 50, 55 and 65 year olds, bowel cancer can strike anyone, young or old, male or female.

More information on the ins and outs of bowel cancer and the previous screening program can be found by reading YOURLifeChoices article, Bottom’s up!.