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New data from AIHW released today shows more than half of South Aussie men (53.4 per cent) still aren’t doing their bowel cancer screening test, even though around 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be treated effectively if found early.

Research shows that in greater Adelaide, the bowel cancer diagnosis rate in men is higher than it is in women (69.6 vs 48.8 cases per 100,000).

Diem Tran from Cancer Council SA says the low screening rate, combined with the high diagnosis rate, is a cause for alarm.

“We know that bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in South Australian men, and the third most common cause of cancer deaths,” she said.

“Screening can help to find early stages of cancer and in some cases, precancerous growths (known as polyps) before they turn into bowel cancer. It is concerning to know that so many men are dying from bowel cancer when we have a world-class National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in Australia, designed to find cancer early.” she said.

It’s not only men who are missing the mark, with data from the South Australian Population Health Survey showing that over two thirds (67.8 per cent) of South Aussie men and women were unaware how often they should have a bowel cancer screening test after the age of 50. Additionally, one in five (20 per cent) people thought that they only needed to do the test if they had symptoms.

Other reasons for not doing the test varied, with reasons ranging from ‘being too busy’ (16.7 per cent) to ‘can’t be bothered’ (15.3 per cent).

Ms Tran urged every South Australian aged 50 and over to take a bowel cancer screening test every two years, and to not wait until they have symptoms.

“Often bowel cancer develops without any noticeable symptoms, which is why it’s so important to do the test as soon as you receive it in the mail,” she said.

“We know that bowel cancer screening really does work – it’s estimated that 84,000 lives would be saved by the year 2040 if screening participation increased to 60 per cent in Australia.”

“In light of this data, we’re urging all South Aussies to put bowel cancer screening at the top of their to-do list and have the test today. It really could save their lives.”

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is a Federal Government initiative that sends a free home test kit in the post to eligible people aged 50-74 every 2 years.

If you are not yet eligible for the program, have symptoms, a family history or are concerned about bowel cancer, it’s important that you speak to your GP about your options.

For more information on bowel cancer screening visit the Cancer Council SA website or call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

To request a replacement bowel cancer screening home test kit, contact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program on 1800 627 701.