Men in the Ballarat region of Victoria have been consciously trying to raise awareness of the importance of screening for bowel cancer
They’re on a mission to show that the screening process is nothing to be embarrassed about.
“People don’t want to participate because they’re scared about that and there’s a stigma attached to getting your moom checked,” Uncle Paul Kirby told The Point.
Uncle Paul might not be here right now if it he hadn't taken the advice of his GP.
“It’s better to know straight away and anyway I decided to go through the process and had the colonoscopy and all that done,” he said.
When the results came back from his colonoscopy, he realised just how lucky he was.
“After the doctor had said to have the colonoscopy, I went through with it, had it done and then went back to the doctor and he said they found some polyps,” Uncle Paul said.
Polyps can become cancerous if they’re left too long, but because Uncle Paul had his found early he was able to be treated straight away.
“They could have become cancerous. The longer you leave them, the greater the risk they have of turning into something more sinister: cancer,” he said.
In Australia, Indigenous people have a lower rate of participation in the screening process.
To help change this, Uncle Paul recently teamed up with Anthony Harrison, a nurse at Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, to make a video encouraging other men to complete their bowel screening.
“The more we do it, the more of a chance of picking it up early and getting it treated," Mr Harrison said.
"And it’s much easier to deal with at an earlier stage than later. So it’s about providing that education to make sure we’re looking after our people.”
According to the experts, bowel screening really isn't as bad as many people think.
“The test is extremely simple, it’s just about getting over the initial test is what puts a lot of people off, but it’s very simple and if it’s picked up early, it’s extremely treatable," Mr Harrison said.
How does the initial screening work?
Christopher Horn from the Cancer Institute of NSW told The Point, the screening is important because bowel cancer can develop without symptoms.
"One of the few ways we have to pick it up in its earlier stages is to do the bowel cancer screening test, which is looking for microscopic blood in the poo," he said.
“The screening test picks up blood in the stool, we can actually pick up polyps in the bowl wall which is typically the way that cancer develops.
“Sometimes treatment can be as simple as taking those out during the colonoscopy before they become cancerous.”
This early detection is why it's so important to be having conversations about getting checked.
“If we can pick it up in its earlier stage treatment can be successful up to 90 per cent of the time. It’s really a few minutes now to save potentially months of treatment later,” Mr Horn said.
Uncle Paul hopes his contribution to the video, and telling his story will encourage more men - and women - to get checked.
“Your family needs you, your grandkids need you, your children, your wife, your partners need you and it’s better to be around for than than to suffer the consequences,” Uncle Paul said.