At-home bowel test saved Donna’s life

Traralgon businesswoman Donna Faulkner is urging recipients of an at-home bowel cancer screening kit to not throw it out.

After all, she owes her life to the free test.

Now cancer-free, Ms Faulkner took the screening kit that came in the mail.

It identified an abnormality in her bowel and she was later diagnosed with a tumour.

Eight months of treatment followed and Ms Faulkner said she was grateful of the early diagnosis.

“It saved my life,” she said.

The free bowel cancer screening kits are distributed across the country each year to those in the age bracket most at risk, yet only 41 per cent of Latrobe Valley recipients take the test.

While this is four per cent higher than the state average, Cancer Council Victoria screening manager Kate Broun encouraged all recipients to take charge of their health.

“We know with bowel cancer that it’s our second biggest cancer killer,” Ms Broun said.

“It’s a very common cancer but it is easily preventable – about 90 per cent can be cured if found early.”

As part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Australian residents aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 will receive the test in the mail.

The program hopes to expand to all residents aged from 50 and 74 by 2020.

Ms Broun said while about three in four people who had previously taken advantage of the free kit repeated the test when re-invited, the biggest challenge was to get Victorians to use the kit for the first time.

“The screening kits are looking not just for early cancer but pre-cancers as well,” she said.

“It’s not just about early detection but prevention too.”

Participants are required to take small samples from two separate bowel movements which are then sent off for testing.

Pathology results are then returned within two weeks.

However, Ms Broun said a positive result did not necessary mean a cancer diagnosis.

“It means they had a positive test which detected blood in the stool which could mean a lot of things,” she said.

“If the test does come back positive we encourage people to make an appointment with their GP who will usually order a colonoscopy to diagnose the cause of the positive reading.”

Ms Faulkner urged everyone to take advantage of the free offer.

“From my experience, the test highlighted there could have been an issue (with my bowel) and a week later the issue was diagnosed to be potentially and significantly life-threatening,” Ms Faulkner said.

“It’s simple, non-intrusive and can be done in the privacy of your bathroom.

“It’s a simple test that can highlight an issue and save a life.”