It's good to see bowel cancer has been hitting the headlines over the past week or so - and for all the right reasons.
New studies offering hope to either find bowel cancer early or stop it altogether have been reported on.
Last week, the results of a study were published in the Lancet showing a regular dose of aspirin can half the number of cancer cases in people with a hereditary risk of the disease.
But before you run out to buy every packet of aspirin at the chemist, it's worth noting that the research focussed on men and women with Lynch syndrome - an inherited genetic disorder that puts people at high risk of bowel and endometrial (womb) cancers.
The research, which was led by Newcastle University in the UK and involved scientists and clinicians from 43 centres in 16 countries, followed nearly 1000 patients, in some cases for more than 10 years.
In Australia, Professor Finlay Macrae, head of Colorectal Medicine and Genetics at The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) led the research recruiting 104 patients with Lynch syndrome to take part.
Here at Cancer Council, we're very proud of this study because we actually helped fund part of the research. It's an exciting development for the humble aspirin but as Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said: "The results are very promising but more research is needed before we would encourage all Australians to take a daily dose of aspirin."
Bowel cancer hit the headlines again this week thanks to blood tests which can potentially find early-stage, or secondary bowel cancer.
The first story mentions a study undertaken by St Vincent's Hospital which showed certain bacterial blood infections may be one of the first signs of bowel cancer. The article suggests this blood test could be used as a screening test for bowel cancer.
The second is a trial looking at blood tests to find "mutant DNA" which could be a sign of secondary bowel cancer. According to John Hopkins University in the USA, the test confirms cancer cells are still circulating the body and could cause cancer elsewhere. However, the test has not yet proven to be accurate. Victorian hospitals are now taking part in this trial.
While these stories are exciting for certain members of the population, it's worth mentioning, as we always do, that we already have a very accurate test to screen for bowel cancer. It's called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and is cheap, simple, accurate and backed by the Australian Government, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). FOBTs are designed to detect the early signs of bowel cancer and along with Cancer Council, the NHMRC guidelines suggest people aged 50 and older do an FOBT every two years. That's because 90% of bowel cancers are curable if found early.
We also recommend a healthy diet, cutting down on the booze, exercising regularly, keeping your waistline to below 100cm if you're a bloke or 85cm if you're female, and not smoking.
So while we are still a while away from a magic pill that can stop bowel cancer before it happens, we suggest you look after your health and if you're 50 or over, order a bowel cancer screening test today - it could save your life.
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