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Success story: John owes his life to a simple test

April 2011

John Murphy with bowel screening kitScreening for bowel cancer involves completing a faecal occult blood test (fob test), which looks for traces of blood in the bowel motion which could be, but are not always, a sign of bowel cancer. John's test was positive and he was therefore referred by his GP for a colonoscopy.

"I wasn't worried because I was 65 and taking very good care of myself so I had no reason to think anything might be wrong. However, during the colonoscopy they found three very large growths, which are called polyps, on the inside of my bowel."

The colonoscopist removed the polyps. "My doctor's words to me were ‘You're a very lucky man'. I was a bit surprised and taken aback and asked ‘Why do you say that?' and he said, ‘Well, the polyps I removed were right on the verge of becoming cancerous.'

"If I hadn't completed the fob test I probably wouldn't have known they were there until it was too late."

Now John strongly encourages everyone 50 and over to screen for bowel cancer.

"I'm living proof that you don't always know when something's wrong, but if you find it early enough, it could save your life. I think the biggest change for me is it's made me so aware that I could have a pre-cancerous polyp or bowel cancer and have no sign that I had it. For me that was quite a frightening realisation."

Cancer Council recommends screening using a fob test every two years from the age of 50 for people without symptoms and without a significant family history of bowel cancer. It is important for those experiencing symptoms, and those with a close family history of the disease, to make an appointment to see their doctor.

"For me it has really just made such a difference to my life. If I hadn't had that bowel screening kit and returned it I could be seriously ill with a life threatening cancer."

Victorians 50 and over can purchase a fob test at a cost of $30, or $22 for pensioners and health care card holders, through the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or online at www.cancervic.org.au/fobt.

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