Andrea Casey jokes if the bowel cancer screening kits Aussies receive in the mail when they turn 50 were wrapped, they might be received more positively.
“Happy birthday, you’re officially old, now go test your poo,” she said.
Bowel cancer is no laughing matter, but testing for the disease was the brunt of the joke at a comedy show at Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service yesterday.
Comedian Denise McGuinness, in partnership with Cancer Council Victoria, has been performing Flushed to the state’s Koori community.
CCV Aboriginal liaison officer Andrea Casey said screening rates in the Indigenous community were 17 percentage points lower than in non-Indigenous people, and the show was hoped to help close that gap.
“Comedy works best in the Aboriginal community to get people engaged – we want them to listen, so this is what we’re doing,” she said.
“We find after the show a lot of people want to know where they can get a kit, or say ‘Is that all it is?’
“Denise is brilliant and lots of people know of her.”
McGuinness was the inaugural Deadly Funny competition winner in 2010 and has also been working with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service for 20 years.
“I’m trying to balance work, comedy and being a grandmother,” she said.
“Nelly Thomas has been our mentor, and I didn’t think it would kick off from the Deadly show like it did.
“The Flushed show puts Aboriginal people at ease – we have a sense of humour we connect over, and I adapt the show to the audience.
“Bowel cancer is very treatable if found early – at work, we tested a group and four came back positive and they didn't know.
“Even if one person does the test, I’ll be happy, and it’s good meeting the mob.”
Ms Casey said 90 per cent of cases can be cured if detected early, but 80 Australians die of bowel cancer every week.
“Once you see how easy the kit is, it’s not as daunting,” she said.
“People think they’re going to have to touch their poo – they think back to the old days where you had to put it in a container for the test.
“Whereas with this, you only need a piece the size of a grain of rice, the rest is flushed away, and you never touch it.
“The screening is looking for microscopic amounts of blood, before anybody has symptoms, so if that’s found the chances are the cancer is so early on it’s going to be treated successfully.
“It’s simple, clean and effective.”
People can call the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Info-line on 1800 118 868 to find out when they will receive a free test.