Cairns residents are being urged to get behind Bowel Cancer Awareness Week (June 5 -11) to learn more about bowel cancer and the importance of early detection.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, delivered in partnership with Queensland Health, was currently inviting men and women turning 50, 55 or 65 in 2011 to participate in free bowel cancer screening.

“We want to see Queenslanders become Australia’s Healthiest people and bowel cancer screening is another way Cairns residents can receive a basic health check-up close to home,” Mr Pitt said.

Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall said both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer and the risk is greater for those aged 50 years or over.

“The good news is that when detected early, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers,” Mr Wettenhall said.

“The simple screening test is mailed to your house and uses Faecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT).

“It takes a small sample from bowel motions and sends it to a pathology laboratory for testing.”

Mt Sheridan resident Thomas Roberts is living proof that when it comes to bowel cancer, early detection provides the best chance of surviving the disease.

“I received a kit in the mail as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program just after my 55th birthday,” he said.

“I was a little apprehensive about taking the test at first, but it turns out it wasn’t such a drama at all, it was easy.

“I just had to take two small stool samples then send them off in the post to a laboratory.

“I was surprised when I got my results back in the mail to say that the test had been positive for blood, as I wasn’t aware of any signs or symptoms before taking the test,” he said.

“I then went on to have a colonoscopy at Cairns Base Hospital to find out the cause of the bleeding.

“The colonoscopy detected cancer contained in a polyp, and this was removed during the colonoscopy.

“A lot of people may perceive a colonoscopy to be an embarrassing procedure, but you aren’t even awake to experience any embarrassment, you get over this very quickly and realise these people are here to help you.

“The hospital staff provided excellent support and explained things to me clearly throughout the whole process. I’m a prime example of why this program is so important.”

Thomas is grateful that he detected the early stages of bowel cancer – when treatment is most successful.

When asked what he would recommend for others who may be a little apprehensive about taking the test, Thomas urged: “Take the opportunity to look after your future. Don’t discard it, make use of this kit. It is there to help you and it could save your life.”

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said it was important to remember that up to 75 per cent of bowel cancers were lifestyle related and could be prevented by exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and quitting smoking.

“It is a particularly dangerous cancer because it often presents few symptoms,” she said.

“Symptoms can be virtually non-existent in the early stages of the disease so early detection is vital – in fact bowel cancer is a largely preventable disease if detected early.

“Nine out of every 10 bowel cancers that are detected early are treatable and curable.”

For more information about your local Bowel Cancer Screening Program, phone 1300 766 927 or visit

Bowel cancer fast facts

  • Bowel cancer is a killer. The second deadliest cancer after lung cancer. Each week in Australia, 80 people die from the disease (17 of these in Queensland).
  • Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if detected early. If detected early, 90 per cent of bowel cancers are treatable and curable.
  • The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with those over 50 years most at risk.
  • Up to 75 per cent of bowel cancers are lifestyle related and could be prevented by maintaining a healthy body weight through regular physical activity and healthy eating, and by limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is offering free screening by sending out Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kits to people who turned 50, 55 and 65 years of age between January 1 2008 and December 31 2010.

Those eligible who have not yet received an invitation should expect their FOBT kits before the end of June 2011.