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Mother’s pleas after bowel cancer diagnoses

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A Melbourne author and mother of two is pleading for younger Australians to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and to get tested.

A Melbourne author and mother of two is pleading for younger Australians to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and to get tested.

Lucie Morris-Marr, 45, was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer a year ago after her symptoms were dismissed firstly as food poisoning and then as an infection.

"Because of my age and I didn't have any other major symptoms they were just saying no, no, we think it's something else, and that was a big mistake," Ms Morris-Marr said.

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The Melbourne mum said the disease would've started as a tiny polyp in her bowel that grew over several years.

"I really want people to be aware of this disease and take control of this."

Her pleas follow a new report by social demographer Bernard Salt which details the extent to which bowel cancer afflicts younger Australians who are not eligible for the national bowel screening program.

"Of the top 10 cancers, bowel cancer is the only cancer to show an increase in mortality rates from 2008 to 2018 and projected to 2021 in the 45-49 cohort," he said.

The report was commissioned by Bowel Cancer Australia.

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Mr Salt also lost his sister from bowel cancer at the age of 47.

While the disease is more prevalent as we age, the report calls for bowel cancer screening to start earlier at the age of 45.

The report shows a 72 per cent spike in bowel cancer detection rates between the ages of 49 and 50.

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"There is a lot of undetected bowel cancer out there in the late forties. This is why we need to extend the bowel cancer screening program," Mr Salt said.

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Currently the government-funded screening program applies to people aged 50 to 74.

In October, the US Preventive Services Taskforce called for screening to start at 45.

"We need to be equally as bold and start screening people from age 45, while also increasing participation rates for those aged over 50," Bowel Cancer Australia CEO Julien Wiggins said.

The report also showed that there has been a leap in bowel cancer deaths in those aged 30 to 34 over the past decade.

Mr Salt said there needs to be an awareness campaign so millennials understand the benefits of early detection.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, weight loss and anaemia.

Ms Morris-Marr thought last Christmas would be her last, but she is now cancer free after invasive treatments and surgery to overcome infection.

She had half of her liver removed, surgery on her bowel and several rounds of chemotherapy.

"But I obviously need to have regular scans and just have to have hope it doesn't return. I'm back writing and enjoying every moment with my children," she said.

She said test kits can be bought at the pharmacy for people currently not eligible for free screening.

"Aren't we lucky there is this test so let's use it… give it out to younger people and it will save lives, save agony for families," she said.

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More than 15,000 Australians are expected to develop bowel cancer this year and it's the second most lethal cancer in the country.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said the National Bowel Cancer screening program will continue to be based on medical and expert advice, taking into account factors relating to risks and benefits.

"The current evidence states starting screening at age 45 is not recommended for population screening because there is a much less favourable ratio of benefits to harms than for 50–74 years," the statement said.

"The Government will continue to monitor and assess the latest expert advice on the appropriate age range for population based screening programs."

Source: 9News

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