Home > Blog

Having a yarn about bowel cancer - the official launch

Monday 26 September, 2011 by Melissa

As we've often discussed here at Cancer Council, talking about the health of your bowel and bum may not be the type of conversation you like to have over the dinner table.
But it is such an important conversation to have - especially with those friends and family who are 50 and older.

While we here at Cancer Council at times have talked until we lose our voices about bowel cancer, there are still those in Victoria that need to have a yarn about it.

This afternoon our focus was on the Victorian Aboriginal community during the launch of our newest resources - a brochure and poster - aimed at starting the conversation in the Aboriginal community about screening for bowel cancer.

As we have heard so many times from bowel cancer survivors, talking about their experiences has encouraged others to talk to a health professional or to do a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) which can detect the early signs of bowel cancer.

The conversation has helped save the lives of people who never would have checked for bowel cancer without that talk.

Cancer Council's new resources feature Gunditjmara woman, bowel cancer survivor and CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc. (VACCHO) Jill Gallagher. Jill bravely shared her story about bowel cancer to start a conversation. Her story is below:

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 54. The year leading up to my diagnosis was really hectic, so I put feeling tired all the time down to working too hard and being busy. I noticed a change in my bowel habits but I always blamed it on something I'd eaten or a bug. It never occurred to me it could be anything more serious.

My advice is, don't take the chance; if you notice anything unusual see your doctor immediately. And if you're 50 or over, don't wait for signs - there's a simple home test you can do that can find bowel cancer early. It could save your life.

It's particularly important for the Aboriginal community to talk about their bowel health as latest Cancer Council figures show that the most common cancer diagnosed in Aboriginal people in Victoria is bowel cancer.
Around 17.5 per cent of all cancers diagnosed (between 2005 and 2009) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians were bowel cancers.

And as avid readers of this blog would know, bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia - claiming the lives of 73 men and women - regardless of their background - each week.

It's a shocking statistic given that 90 per cent of bowel cancers are curable if detected early.

Add to this the research that shows the Aboriginal community has a 45 per cent higher death rate from cancer, compared to the rest of the Australian population, and the need for the conversation becomes even more apparent.

That's why it's so important for Aboriginal men and women to screen for cancer - especially bowel cancer.

The launch of the bowel cancer resources was a small part of a special event which marked the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cancer Council Victoria and VACCHO. The MOU aims to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians with cancer - to improve the survival rates and wider knowledge of cancers like bowel cancer in the Aboriginal community.

As always, Cancer Council Victoria recommends men and women 50 and older, no matter their background, do an (FOBT) every two years, and to see their doctor immediately if they notice any unusual changes, whatever their age. Take Jill's advice and have a yarn to your doctor or health worker about bowel cancer. As she says, it could save your life.

Jill Gallagher, VACCHO CEO poster

Leave a comment

Read our blog participation guidelines and join the discussion. (Please note: Your first name will appear with your comment, but your surname and email address will not be shown.)

Security Code   Change Image
Write the characters in the image above