Thursday, 5 April 2012


“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” - Mahatma Gandhi

I consider myself very lucky to live in Australia. It is a vast, beautiful, bountiful country with rich resources, a good standard of living, good health care and a social welfare system that looks after citizens. Our economy is in a comparatively healthy state, the unemployment rate is relatively low and most people live their lives with dignity and happiness. In the last few years things have been changing. Unfortunately these changes are not always for the good of the majority of the population. Our system has been moving away from that of a democracy that is socially aware and is committed to the well-being of every Australian, towards a system more aligned to the tenets of capitalism where big business and the rich are favoured, to the detriment of the middle classes and the poor, whose standard of living is becoming eroded.

One of the most useful and socially responsible things that we can be thankful for in Australia is the Government-sponsored and supported programs that involve health screening of the population for common diseases like breast and bowel cancer. These two cancers are not only exceedingly common in Australia, but also can be fully cured if treated at an early stage. This is the reasoning behind the routine screening that is done on ostensibly healthy people and which discovers early curable cancers that have not shown any symptoms.

The Cancer Council launched the “Get Behind Bowel Screening” campaign in June 2009 in response to the Federal Government ignoring its calls to provide a fully implemented bowel cancer screening program. It is 13 years since the Government’s own expert medical body recommended all Australians aged 50 and over, be screened for bowel cancer every two years. The Government is currently only funding a one-off test for 50, 55 and 65 year olds, but with more than 14,000 men and women diagnosed (and more than 4,000 people dying) in Australia every year from bowel cancer, more need be done. Around 90% of bowel cancers are curable if caught early.

Bowel cancer kills 73 Australians every week (the nation’s second-biggest cancer killer, after lung cancer) affecting both men and women. Regular screening is important because someone can have bowel cancer without any noticeable symptoms. It is Australia’s most expensive cancer, costing an estimated $1 billion each year to the health system – mostly in taxpayer-funded pharmaceutical and hospital costs. By expanding the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program the Australian Government could reduce health system expenditure and save lives.

Every Australian should actively become involved in this great campaign by the Cancer Council in order to convince the Government of the necessity of a fully implemented bowel cancer screening program. We should be contacting our members of parliament in order to get them to support this call for action. This can be done at the Cancer Council’s site.

If it is fully implemented, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is the most effective measure available to the Australian government for immediately reducing bowel cancer death in Australia. It has the potential to save more than 30 lives a week! This is what our politicians need to understand and act upon…

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting that you wrote we have been moving away from ...a democracy that is socially aware and is committed to the well-being of every Australian, towards a system more aligned to the tenets of capitalism where big business and the rich are favoured.

    I agree with you 100% but brutally capitalist countries would argue with your use of the word "democracy" in this context. If democracy is used to mean universal suffrage, then I suppose capitalist countries could be called democratic. If democracy means concern for all its citizens, then capitalist countries are often brutal to their poorer, older, sicker citizens.

    Now, getting back to your main point, I had no idea that bowel cancer is the nation’s second-biggest cancer killer. And my husband is a radiologist!