Early test saves Bicton man from bowel cancer

Early test saves Bicton man from bowel cancer

AS a long-time public health servant, Brian Wall knows well the importance of catching cancer early.

A trained pharmacist, the Bicton man worked for the then Health Department in various roles from 1984 to 1996, including as general manager of the public health division responsible for overseeing health protection campaigns similar to the national bowel cancer screening program.

But even with his background, Mr Wall did like so many and put off completing his own test when it arrived.

Luckily for Mr Wall, who was living at the time with undiagnosed colon cancer, his delay did not prove fatal.

“I first did the test about six years ago in 2011 and came back clear,” he said.

“Up until recently you were only sent the test every five years and when I got the second one, it sat on the desk for a couple of months. Not because of the ‘ick’ factor, which I think is maybe what most people worry about, but just because you’ve got to take a bit of time out of your day to actually complete it and then send it in.”

When Mr Wall’s second test came back positive for bowel cancer, he refused to believe it.

“I went to see the gastroenterologist and told him I was wasting his time; I didn’t have any symptoms at all and felt absolutely fine,” he said.

An hour later, Mr Wall was diagnosed with stage 2A bowel cancer and within two weeks he went under the knife for life-saving surgery.

“Without a doubt that test saved my life,” Mr Wall said.

The national bowel cancer screening program invites Australians over the age of 50 to screen for bowel cancer using a free and simple test at home.

Cancer Council WA cancer smart manager Melissa Ledger said despite the fact bowel cancer is one of the top causes of cancer death in WA, only 41 per cent of eligible West Australians were currently participating in the screening program.

“We know it’s largely embarrassment and anxiety that result in people not using the kits, but we also know those who have completed the screening kit find it easy and convenient,” she said.

In the early stages, bowel cancer often has no symptoms but if found early, up to 90 per cent of cases are treated successfully.

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