Over 50? It’s time to embrace this very unique birthday gift…
Today I’d like to talk about, well…poo.
In this country turning 50 is a monumental milestone, so much so that even the Australian Government gets in on the act by sending us a pressie. But don’t get excited, it’s not a new Ferrari or a Tiffany’s voucher. No friends, for being a good citizen and paying all your taxes, roughly two weeks after turning the Big Five-Oh, you will receive in the mail…..drumroll please….a Bowel Cancer Kit!
Confronting as it is to receive, and trust me, it is, the Poo Test may be the best present you ever get. Tiffany diamonds may spark joy, but they’re unlikely to ever save your life.
This is a preventative measure, because Bowel Cancer, also known as Colon and Colo-rectal Cancer, is currently the second most diagnosed cancer in people over 50 in this country. It develops from the inner lining of the bowel and is usually preceded by growths called polyps which may become invasive cancer if undetected. Your Poo Test will uncover any blood which is indicative of polyps, and can then be surgically removed before becoming cancerous. Bowel Cancer is diagnosed in stages 1 to 4, one being you caught it early, good for you, and 4, well I’m no doctor but I doubt anyone cracks open the Veuve for 4.
Some sobering facts:
- 7 years is the median age of diagnosis, thus the need for early detection
- 17,004 new cases were diagnosed in 2018
- a little under half were women
- 4,129 cases resulted in death (that’s one quarter!)
- The number of new cases increased from 6,988 (3,526 males and 3,462 females) in 1982 to 15,253 in 2014. This rate has more than DOUBLED in 4 years.
Let’s talk about the test itself:
Everything you need is in the magic box: instructions, toilet liner, two vials, and a prepaid padded envelope. And that there is the most mind-boggling part…the fact that thousands, if not more, poo samples are traveling through the post at any given time! But it’s all very safe and hygienic, because of course you will be refrigerating your samples before sending. The samples themselves are the size of a grain of rice, so no pooper scooper required. If you happen to drop a bomb and tear the toilet liner, like a friend of mine who shall remain nameless, simply ring our good friends at the National Bowel Cancer Association and they’ll send you a new kit. Free. Same if your kit expires. Yes, they have a use-by date. Who knew?
What are the causes of Bowel Cancer?
- Bowel diseases ie. Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis
- Being overweight
- A diet high in red meat
- Family history
We are living in an age where we’ve never been better educated about good nutrition, exercise, and our health in general, and yet our society is more obese and unhealthy than ever. There’s mountains of new research into the gut and related diseases, in response to the mountains of new diagnoses of gut related issues. But that’s a whole other article, stand by… It’s worth mentioning here that if you have a family history of intestinal disease, you win the $200. You can skip the Poo Test, pass GO, and head straight to the Colonoscopy square on the Bowel Monopoly board. No messing around with vials and pre-paid envelopes for you. Similarly, if you experience any symptoms like a change in your bowel movements, bloating, blood, abdominal pain, weight loss or swelling, get to your GP. Like toddlers and pre-pubescent boys, they love poo talk.
I’ve heard people complain about the Poo Test, maligning it, calling it names, referring to it as gross and disgusting. Fair call. It’s not pleasant, but most necessary, life changing interventions aren’t. The Poo Test sits squarely beside the other two unsavoury components of the 50th birthday Holy Trinity: namely the Pap Smear and the Mammogram, and possibly the Prostate Test, although I have no personal experience in this area. If you’ve reached 50, chances are you’ve changed at least one nappy in your life, or scooped doggy poop at some stage. It is a means to an end. Think of it as life insurance, or possibly an investment, for those entrepreneurs among us. An investment in a long and healthy future. And If you’re still squeamish and intent on putting it off, my advice is to suck it up (pardon the visual) and proactively embrace this very unique birthday gift.
At 52 I’ve just received my second Poo Test. Happy birthday to me!