STOP PRESS: Since posting this blog, the Victorian Labor Party has made a pre-election promise to screen 57,000 Victorians for bowel cancer over the next three years. More details to follow soon...
Posted by Shona, 19 November 2010: There were more than 60 bums on seats at Cancer Council Australia's parliamentary event yesterday to raise awareness of Australia's anonymous killer: bowel cancer, and to shine a light on the uncertain future of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
The fact there is no published funding for a bowel cancer screening program beyond the end of this year is actually shocking, or ought to be. Yet with just weeks to go, the Federal Government has made no commitment to continue this vital program and what is the best hope of reducing the death toll.
Just imagine if you will, the public outcry if the future of BreastScreen were at stake?
We get it. Bowel cancer is not a sexy topic. But really, neither is breast cancer. It's a terrible disease that kills many Australian women every year. The difference is, the breast cancer lobby has many very high-profile, much-loved and glamorous ambassadors. Bowel cancer doesn't.
So why is it that people are so reluctant to get behind the bowel cancer cause? Certainly boobs are lovely, but so are bums. They are soft and cheeky - just imagine the discomfort of sitting down without one. Perhaps it's the humorous nature of bottoms that stops this issue from getting the attention it deserves.
The fact is bowel cancer is a very serious health issue. It is the second most common cancer in Australia and this nation's second biggest cancer killer (after lung cancer). Tragically it claims the lives of 73 Australians every week despite the fact that more than 90% of cases could be cured if found early.
You wouldn't think it from the headlines but bowel cancer kills almost twice as many people as breast and prostate cancer. The problem with detecting bowel cancer is it usually develops without any symptoms until it becomes advanced, and that is why screening is so essential.
Indeed, the Government's own National Health and Medical Research Council recommends screening using an FOBT at least every two years from the age of 50. However the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has always been a poor cousin to cervical and breast screening, being as it is only available to three age groups.
Indeed, it's really more of a lottery than a screening program given people only receive a one-off test. By definition it's not a screening program at all. So just at a time when Government ought to be announcing the expansion and continuation of this vital program, it remains tight-lipped about the future.
With just weeks to go, please join our campaign for free screening for everyone 50 and over and send an email to your local MP today at http://www.getbehindbowelscreening.com.au
Australia's bums need a little love.
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