Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Yet the stigma that continues to surround the disease contributes an aversion to regular testing.
This aversion could have spelled a very different future for 50-year-old Jayne Hallam, who received one of the Australian Government’s free bowel cancer testing kits late last year.
“I had the kit lying around at home from around November to January of this year. Rather than throwing it out I just thought I’d use it and nothing would come of it,” Hallam says.
She had no symptoms to speak of and no family history of bowel cancer. However, she received a letter explaining her sample had tested positive for faecal blood.
At this stage, the registered nurse wasn’t too concerned.
"Rather than throwing it out I just thought I’d use it and nothing will come of it." Image: iStock.
“It’s not unusual to get a false positive, it could be anything it could have been a little fissure that opens when you go to the toilet," she explains.
“In hindsight, when I look back at bowel changes and things like that, there was obviously something going on. It just didn’t click. But there was nothing that made me think, 'Oh that’s a sign or a symptom'; it could very easily be explained.”
During a holiday overseas, Hallam’s symptoms worsened. "While we were away I had noticed visible blood in my stools, and by visible I mean clots," she recalls.
On her return she had an appointment with a specialist, and during a colonoscopy a few days later an 18-millimetre tubulovillous adenoma was found and removed.
“The specialist said he wasn’t overly concerned because it had now been removed. However, there is a higher risk of cancer of people who have had that so now I am on a surveillance program,” Hallam says.
“It really is a minority that anything comes back of anything of concern when they do a colonoscopy. I just think, 'Oh my goodness, it could have been so different if I had just kept ignoring it.'”