Like so many others diagnosed with bowel cancer, Gareth Threlkeld never thought it would happen to him.
“I was feeling very tired and I had a total lack of energy,” he said.
“Because I’m a type two diabetic, I have regular visits to an endocrinologist and he said I was hemorrhaging.
“Within the next 24 hours I’d been booked in for surgery with an early-stage polyp detected in the first layer of the bowel wall.”
Mr Threlkeld didn’t require chemotherapy in 2015 and lost 20 centimetres of his bowel.
“If it had gone in the second layer of the bowel wall, I would gave been in fairly big trouble,” he said.
“I was very lucky.”
The Melbourne man happened to be in town on Friday when The Big Bowel – a seven-metre-long inflatable replica of the colon – was on display in Albury.
The Murray Primary Health Network partnered with Bowel Cancer Australia and the Hume Regional Integrated Cancer Service to bring the display to the Border.
Hume RICS optimal care pathway project manager Colin Roberts said most people were unaware of the high incidence of bowel cancer.
“General practitioners should be having conversations about diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol intake with patients,” he said.
“Those who are eligible will be getting free access to bowel cancer screening.
“They can post that test off and get an early result as to whether everything is looking OK.”
Murray PHN North East regional manager Richard McClelland said more people needed to participate in the test.
“While people over the age of 50 are encouraged to take part in the free national bowel cancer screening program, only 38 per cent of eligible Victorians take it up,” he said.
“Screening can detect bowel cancer at its earliest stages, when treatment is 90 per cent successful.”
In the North East region, the diagnosis of bowel cancer accounts for the second-highest number of cancer cases identified each year.
Mr Roberts said The Border East Cancer Network of Hume RICS, based at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre, was part of a new project to improve care for all people fighting cancer.
“It was considered there was perhaps a variation in terms of access and time limits between regional and metropolitan centres,” he said.
“The optimal care pathways are being funded by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“We tell patients what they can expect along each step of the way on that pathway.
“We find we have much better patient outcomes.”