Erik took the bowel cancer screening test – it saved his life

Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and the second leading cause of cancer-related death. It claims the lives of over 5,000 Australians a year. Regular screening is important to detect it early, so take the free bowel cancer test – it could save your life.

Date published:
General public

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Read about Erik’s experience with our bowel cancer test kit and how it saved his life.

Erik’s story

Erik was one of the smart, lucky ones.

Erik turned 50 in December 2019 and received his first free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program home test kit in the mail in March 2020.

Erik is fit, healthy, a non-smoker, showed no symptoms and had only just become eligible to be screened in the free national program. He confesses a medical test in the mail isn’t something he would normally act upon, but for reasons even he can’t explain, he decided to complete the test.

A week later he received a call from his GP informing the test had come back positive.

‘He told me it was most likely nothing serious, but that I should come in for a colonoscopy examination to be on the safe side’, which he did that week. Following the procedure, he was given the news cancerous polyps had developed, and he would require an MRI to determine their extent, and whether the cancer had spread to any other parts of his body.

He was booked in the same day, just before the ANZAC Day weekend.

‘It was a long three days to wait for the results, I didn’t sleep well. All I could think about was my wife and kids, the mortgage, everything.’

On the Monday morning, the surgeon called him and informed him that the good news was that it appeared the cancer hadn’t spread, but it needed to be removed as soon as possible. He was booked in for surgery the following Thursday.

‘All up I had a four-and-a-half-hour operation in which the surgeon removed a third of my colon. I spent four days in hospital, and a further 10 recovering at home.’

The biopsy results had showed that he had developed stage 3 bowel cancer (stage 4 is considered terminal). Erik is pleased to report that everything is going well, he is back at work and enjoying spending time with his family and especially his wife and daughters.

Erik grew up in Iran and Armenia, and moved to Australia in 1986, and even before this experience could not understand people complaining about the standard of Australia’s healthcare system.

‘I’ve seen the standard in other countries, and you can’t even compare.’

‘I was shocked to hear that only around 40% of Australians complete the home test kit each year. I am thankful that I live in a country that really takes care of its citizens in such a way.’

The test kit is sent to all Australians between the age of 50 and 74, every 2 years. It’s an easy-to-do test which you send directly to the pathologist so they can detect any blood in your stool sample. A positive result does not necessarily mean cancer has developed, but it does indicate the need for further testing to find the cause and determine if cancer is a factor.

If 60% of the population does their bowel screening tests, more than 24,000 additional lives will be saved by 2040.

Since Erik’s experience, he’s determined to tell as many people as possible to do the test, in case it saves their life, like it did his.

‘I’ve got my family, friends and football mates to complete the test and told them to tell their friends too. We need everyone aged between 50 and 74 to get screened,’ Erik said.

Thankfully, Erik’s experience is relatively uncommon. But it serves as an important reminder to take the test – it could save your life.

Learn more about getting a bowel screening test.

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