THE Ballarat region has been ranked number one in Australia for avoidable deaths from bowel cancer, according to Grampians Medicare Local.
A total of 14.9 people per 100,000 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer in Ballarat, with the figure exceeding both the state and national rate.
The state and national bowel cancer rates are 11.3 and 10.9 people per 100,000 people aged between 0 and 74 respectively.
Grampians Medicare Local spokeswoman Michelle MacGillivray said the region’s high smoking and obesity rates and limited access to health care contributed to the figure.
“It is the second most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia for men and women behind lung cancer,” Ms MacGillivray said. “But one of the good things about bowel cancer, if detected early, it has a very good success rate of overcoming the disease.”
More than 15,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Australia every year, with the figure expected to rise by 20,000 cases per year by 2020.
Ms MacGillivray said people aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 can collect a free bowel cancer test from their GP, as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
“You need to be aware of your risk factors and should take a test every two years,” Ms MacGillivray said.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, gas, bloating, fullness, cramps, unexplained weight loss, tiredness and vomiting.
Ms MacGillivray said it was up to individuals to complete regular bowel cancer tests.