June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, so get behind it.
That’s the mantra from Bowel Cancer Australia as it runs its annual initiative to raise public awareness of the disease.
In keeping with the clarion call, I’m joining the movement as a Bowel Cancer Awareness champion.
I wouldn’t necessarily class myself a champion, but I felt like I’d won a gold medal when my screening results came back last month. Thankfully negative.
Bowel cancer is Australia's second biggest cancer killer and if you think it can’t happen to you, think again.
Bowel cancer claims 80 Australian lives a week, and contrary to some misconceptions, the disease is almost as prevalent in women, as it is in men.
Symptoms include bleeding, recurring stomach pain, change of bowel habit (constipation or diarrhoea) and/or family history.
Four of those five symptoms I experience every time I consume cauliflower soup. Not to mention the usual unease after eating beetroot.
But Bowel Cancer Awareness Month has a positive message.
The disease is one of the most treatable types of cancer if detected early.
A fact gastroenterologist Dr George Radvan, from Newcastle Endoscopy Centre, reminded me of in a recent conversation.
“The old statement, ‘don’t die of embarrassment’ in relation to bowel cancer, is as valid for women as it is for men,” Dr Radvan said. “The disease does not discriminate across gender and can occur in young people, male or female.
“The incidence increases with age, which is why the government’s screening program begins at age 50. And early detection is key.”
Which gets me back to being an unlikely champion.
I eventually got round to doing the screening test, but it took a while.
Typically, people, particularly men, put it off, even after they become eligible for the screening program.
Complacency can be as big a barrier to early detection as embarrassment.
Not that I was embarrassed when the testing kit arrived in the mail.
More gobsmacked that I had reached that age where things like this arrive in the mail.
I was officially part of APIA’s target audience, gated communities were now in my ambit and according to all relevant medical advice, it was time for a mid-life grease and oil.
Still I put it off, mainly because I broke my arm, and the initial samples I gathered lay in a draw for a bit longer than recommended.
There is a certain sweet science to the process, but it’s literally in your interest to learn it.
The testing kit couldn’t be simpler to operate, nor more sanitised.
It just requires a certain, I wouldn’t say aim, more resolve. To get the job done. Ahem.
And start that journey to avoiding one of the most preventable cancers there is.
My second wind came last month, in terms of gathering samples.
I figured, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but there’s no reason to go early with this scourge.
You reckon going to the toilet is a relief? Wait until your bowel cancer test result comes back negative.
And if it hadn’t at least I would have been in a position to manage a condition that is so tragically fatal if left otherwise.