“Bowelscan testing a proven lifesaver”

By Cam Ward - Geelong Advertiser (Thursday May 4, 2017)

Bowelscan testing a proven lifesaverTorquay's Graham Gill didn't necessarily join Rotary to become a lifesaver - it just worked out that way.

And as luck would have it, the life he helped save was his daughter's.

Because of her dad, Leanne Paull knew all about Rotary's Bowelscan cancer awareness program.

May is Bowelscan Month, when Rotary rolls out its bowel cancer test kits across the state.

The Waurn Ponds mum had been taking the test for years vecause her father encouraged all his family to buy the kids and take the simple test to screen for bowel cancer.

Last year her Bowelscan test came back positive.

Even though there was no family history of the disease, she had non of the risk factors and was aged under 50, she got a second test through her GP. It also came back positive.

It was the subsequent colonoscopy that then discovered the tumour, which was in its  "relatively early stages" and able to be surgically removed without the need for chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Ms Paull was 45.

"If Dad hadn't said anything, I never would have done anything," she said. "Sometimes you don't know what's going on in your bodies."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Bowelscan in Victoria. Today Belmont Rotarian Max Fry oversees a program that covers regional Victoria, southern NSW and eastern South Australia.

Locally, every chemist in Geelong will be stocking the Bowelscan kit this month.

The message that Mr Fry is keen to get out is that a Bowelscan test should not just be seen as a one-off thing, and that it should be taken regularly.

Ms Paull certainly knows the wisdom of that.

“Take the Kit”

By Kimberley Rice

“Take the Kit.”  These three simple but important words could save your life.  This is my story.  When I was thirteen years old my Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  My Mum was 47 years old.  At this point in time we didn’t even know what the bowel was and could not comprehend the word cancer.  My mother had experienced lower abdominal pain and a change in bowel habit.  Following consultation with her local general practitioner she underwent further investigations.  A barium enema (x-ray of the large intestine) and colonoscopy (visual examination of the large bowel) confirmed a bowel cancer.  Mum was referred to a colorectal surgeon and stomal therapist in preparation for surgery.  The surgery was successful with the sigmoid section of the large bowel being removed.  The results indicated an early stage bowel cancer requiring no further intervention.  This was almost twenty years ago and Mum is now considered cured.  This was such a relief.  During this time the surgeon said that a family history of bowel cancer increases your chances and that my brother and I would require regular investigations.  I must admit this was something I was not looking forward to undertaking and was immediately put to the back of my mind.

Three years later our lives would change forever.  My Dad had worked for Australia Post for 44 years which kept him very fit and active as bicycles were the mode of transport for mail delivery.  He was always a person helping and giving to others.  He retired from mail delivery and worked in the area of parcel delivery.  Towards the end of 1998 he had noticed bleeding when he used his bowels, loss of appetite and weight loss.  He said that it was nothing to worry about and probably just haemorrhoids.  My Dad continued working until he became very unwell and went to his local general practitioner.  Further investigations showed that Dad had a bowel cancer requiring immediate surgery.  Unfortunately my Dad’s bowel cancer had metastasised and he passed away two weeks later.  My Dad was only 61 years old.  I never want anyone to go through what we experienced as a family. 

This experience was the catalyst that has lead me into the career I have today.  I have worked as a nurse in theatre at St John of God Hospital (Geelong) for the past 13 years.  In this role I assist with colonoscopy and bowel cancer surgical interventions every day.  There is nothing more satisfying than knowing I was able to make a difference in a persons’ life. Especially if the story involved a person undertaking the bowelscan kit, receiving a positive result, undergoing surgery and results indicating that the cancer had not spread.  This makes my job very rewarding. 

In my position I’m always seeking ways to empower people and emphasise how bowel cancer can affect everybody both directly and indirectly.  An email was sent out about 5 years ago seeking volunteers to assist with the testing of the Bowelscan Kits.  Bowelscan is a community health awareness program supported by the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund.  I couldn’t wait to get involved and consider the holistic experience of the person’s journey.  Members from different rotary clubs and a pathologist worked closely as a team to test the kits.  However, commencing May 2016 we are using a new bowelscan kit.  They can be purchased from your local pharmacy at a cost of $15.  The kit is simple, non-invasive and can be undertaken in the comfort of your own home.  The person undertaking the kit does not have to restrict medications or adhere to a particular diet.  The brushes within the kit make it easy to collect a sample and apply it to the collection window.  The person fills out the registration card with their personal details.  The samples and information are posted back in the replied paid envelope which is included in the kit.  A laboratory tests the kits for the presence of blood.  Following testing, a letter is sent to the person indicating a positive or negative result and then they become a part of the database to be reminded of future testing.  The local general practitioner is also notified of the result.  The recommendation is for the new bowelscan kit to be completed every year.  I want to emphasise that the person does not automatically have a bowel cancer if they receive a positive result.  There a many causes for blood being present in stool.  The person needs to have further investigations which can be arranged during consultation with their general practitioner.

I want to educate and empower everyone the importance of bowel cancer awareness.  Your bowels are an important part of the digestive tract and I don’t want people to feel embarrassed when talking about this important organ.  Bowel cancer is preventable and together we can make a difference.  

If you notice a change in bowel habit, bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss or loss of appetite don’t ignore.  Seek further assistance from your general practitioner.  An important screening test that is available to you right now is the bowelscan kit.  One simple smear could save your life.