Pink saris for bowel cancer screening

The health crusaders at Pink Sari Inc continue their campaign for bowel cancer screening in the South Asian community

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Through innovative community events and social media campaigns, Pink Sari Inc. has fired the imagination of the South Asian population in NSW. In doing so, it has successfully raised awareness of breast and bowel cancer and improved screening rates, which are at a historic low. Dismantling the myths surrounding cancer, Pink Sari’s latest community offering – Tiffin and Tea at Thornleigh – brought together men and women of all age groups for a candid conversation on gut microbiomes, dysbiosis and bowel cancer.

Having taken the “yuck” factor out of bowel screening with launch of Your Bowel Matters earlier this year, Pink Sari Inc has taken on an exciting new challenge – to empower South Asian families to be proactive about their health and embed positive lifestyle choices.

A panel of change-makers including entrepreneur and founder of Chai Walli Uppma Virdi and celebrity chef and owner of Abhi’s and Aki’s restaurants Kumar Mahadevan joined dietician Priya Iyer and gastroenterologist Dr Viraj Kariyawasam as they helped the audience navigate the exciting realm of gut health. Unlocking the mystery of healthy living, the experts recommended simple strategies such as choosing whole grains, increasing intake of fresh vegetables and fruit, incorporating exercise and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics.

Obesity, diet high in processed foods and low in fibre, drinking and smoking, are all known to increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Otherwise known as colorectal cancer, it is the second most deadly cancer in Australia, with people 50-74 being most at risk. While there are few warning signs, rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits and unexplained tiredness could be symptoms to watch out for. Inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis are also risk factors.

“Thankfully almost 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if detected early. And more importantly, the pain and discomfort of the traumatic journey can be avoided,” explained Dr Kariyawasam, who has a special interest in cancer screening with emphasis on prevention and early detection.

“There is a 98% survival rate for Stage I patients. In contrast, the prognosis for Stage IV sufferers is a bleak 13%,” he added.

Through National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), eligible Australians between 50 and 74 years receive a free kit every two years for a faecal occult test.

“Unlike other cancers which have no pre-screening, the bowel cancer test is simple, easy and can be done in the privacy of your home. When you receive a kit in the mail, please act on it straight away. Don’t put in the drawer or worse in the bin. Please take a moment. It could save your life,” urged Shantha Viswanathan, Pink Sari Inc president, while demonstrating how to use the kit.

“A simple screening test could have saved me a lot of painful procedures,” regretted Bowel Matters ambassador and survivor Karthikeyan Krishnan.

A mystery box, jigsaw competition and Bollywood dance lesson by Darshini made it an immersive experience. The passion and commitment of Bowel Matters team comprising Anoop Johar, Aparna Tijoriwala (MC), Kashmira Sachania, Manju Sri Pathma, Rugmini Venkatraman, Viji Dhayanathan, Shantha Viswanathan and of course Jesusa Helaratne (MHCS) was truly infectious.For information on National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, call 1800 118 or visit Pink Sari’s Facebook page for event photos & healthy recipes 

Bowel cancer symptoms

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • change in bowel habit with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
  • thin bowel movements
  • blood in the stools
  • abdominal pain, bloating or cramping
  • anal or rectal pain
  • a lump in the anus or rectum
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • unexplained anaemia.

Source: Cancer Council www.cancer.org.au

Screening for bowel cancer

Screening, using a non-invasive test for blood in the faeces that can be done at home, is recommended for all Australians aged 50 to 74. Known as the faecal occult blood test (FOBT), the test is only for low-risk people with no symptoms of bowel cancer. The FOBT is not for people with a family history of bowel cancer. In this case, you may need screening colonoscopies.

Currently, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, using FOBT, is offered free to people turning 50, 54, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, or 74 years of age. By 2020, all Australians aged 50 to 74 will be offered the test free every two years.

For further information call 1800 118 868 or visit cancerscreening.gov.au.

Source: Cancer Council www.cancer.org.au