Cancer Council campaign breaks the silence on bowel cancer

More Queenslanders over 50 are expected to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, thanks to the success of a Queensland-first TV ad breaking the silence on bowel cancer.

The Cancer Council advertisement, produced with Federal Government funding, has seen a 46 per cent surge in calls to the Cancer Council Helpline since June.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the surge in calls had highlighted an urgent need for greater community awareness of bowel cancer.

“On some days, we’ve received between 90 and 120 calls to our Helpline from Queenslanders who have viewed the TV advertisement,” Ms Clift said.

“This surge in numbers is significant, demonstrating the impact of awareness campaigns in activating the community to reduce their risks of cancer through screening and early detection.

“Only three in 10 Queenslanders currently complete the free bowel cancer screening test – although we expect to see improved uptake of screening as a result of this campaign.

“Ultimately, increased screening participation will help to ensure bowel cancer is detected in earlier stages, when it is far easier to treat.

“When detected early, bowel cancer is curable in about 90 per cent of cases.

“We encourage all Queenslanders with questions about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, or their personal risk, to contact Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.”

The advertisement features three Australians who have lost loved ones to bowel cancer, and encourages those eligible to participate in the free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Currently, Queenslanders aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 are invited to screen by completing a simple faecal occult blood test. People aged 70 and 74 will be invited next year, with the remaining gaps in the program filled by July 2020.

Research* has also suggested many over-50s mistakenly believe they only need to be screened if they experience symptoms of bowel cancer.

“This misconception could cost lives – the message is for all who are eligible to take the test, whether you have symptoms of bowel cancer or not,” Ms Clift said.

“The surge in calls to our Helpline has hopefully helped to clarify confusion for callers, ensuring more Queenslanders understand the screening protocols and what that means for them.”

Bowel cancer is Queensland’s second biggest cancer killer. Around 2950 Queenslanders are diagnosed each year, and nearly 1000 people die from the disease.

Screening kits are mailed to all eligible Queenslanders. People aged over 50 who currently fall outside the target group, or anyone concerned about bowel cancer, should talk to their GP about bowel cancer screening.

More information about the Cancer Council advertisement is available at

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 or

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

*Self-reported participation and beliefs about bowel cancer screening in New South Wales, Australia, Varlow et al, Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2014.