Women need to think about breast AND bowel cancer
Women need to be thinking breast and bowel when it comes to cancer prevention after research found a dangerous knowledge gap between the two most common cancers of Australian women.
Research conducted on behalf of Bowel Cancer Australia involving 1,000 men and women aged 40-70 found 89 per cent of women felt quite informed about breast cancer but this dropped to 56 per cent for bowel cancer.
Even males said they knew more about breast cancer (60 per cent) than bowel cancer (53 per cent).
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer for both women and men (after breast and prostate cancer respectively) and the number two cancer killer of Australians, after lung.
Julien Wiggins, chief executive of Bowel Cancer Australia, said the relatively poor knowledge about bowel cancer was likely to be one important contributing factor to poor participation rates for testing among those aged 50-70.
“In females, 84 per cent said they had some form of a breast cancer check but only 48 per cent said they had a bowel cancer check in the last couple of years.”
Greater awareness and action on breast cancer checks may in part explain the better outcomes for breast cancer than bowel cancer. An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released last week found 5-year survival after breast cancer is a strong 89 per cent while survival following bowel cancer is only 66 per cent.
“Our research highlights the community benefit of long-standing, well-funded and well-promoted government screening programs and awareness campaigns for mammography and pap tests.”
“We need similar action for bowel cancer. It’s a preventable disease as the cancers arise from benign polyps which can be found and removed if discovered in time. It also has a proven screening test - the FOB (Faecal Occult Blood) test - that medical bodies and the Government endorse.”
“When women are booking breast screening appointments, it’s a perfect time to think about bowel cancer screening as well. Screening for both is recommended from age 50, every two years.”
Mr Wiggins said another concerning finding that reflects community perceptions is that almost one in five people thought bowel cancer was much more common in men than women.
“Bowel cancer is not a bloke’s cancer. It affects men and women almost equally but less than half of the participants (44 per cent) knew this, while 36 per cent were unsure of what the gender split was.”
“The ‘bloke’s cancer’ belief may also explain the relatively poor response we’ve seen from women regarding attitudes and screening participation for bowel cancer, as they’re typically more proactive than men when it comes to health issues.”
Mr Wiggins said in the absence of a government funded awareness program, Bowel Cancer Australia was encouraging people to join The Bowel Movement by taking three simple steps.
Talk – reduce the embarrassment by talking with family and friends about signs, symptoms and testing for bowel cancer. Test – take a bowel cancer screening test, especially if you’re over 50. BowelScreen® Australia test kits are available from many community pharmaciesTell – share your family’s medical history with close relatives.
“We need the community to be better informed and better prepared. Bowel cancer affects men and women and while the risk increases markedly from age 50, those under 50 are not immune from the country’s second biggest cancer killer.”
(Source: Bowel Cancer Australia)
For more information on bowel cancer, types of bowel cancer, and its tests, treatments and useful videos, see Bowel Cancer (Colorectal Cancer).
Article Date: 1/10/2012
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