The conversations of life

Etienne Reiss, Bowel Cancer Screening – 21.05.17

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Clinton: So this is quite disturbing. Bowel cancer is the second most leading cause of cancer related deaths in this country. Are we actually doing enough about it do you think ladies?

Jill: Well I don’t know. I mean, the last thing I saw about it was that with the bowel screening tests that are being provided to people out there 50 years and over that it’s still got a relatively small take up. Which is concerning. So I think to discuss all of that and find out a bit more about what is involved in bowel screening we’re joined in the studio with the National Sales and Marketing Manager of Clinical Genomics Etienne Reiss.

Annie: Thanks for joining us today. So with only 36 percent of people who are invited to screen and actually participating in the program. Do we consider that successful?

Etienne: Yes. It’s a very good question. I think for the 36 percent of people that have been screened I think the program has been very successful.

Annie: Successful for that 36 percent.

Clinton: So there’s 64 percent of the population who aren’t being screened.

Annie: And why aren’t they doing the test?

Etienne: And you know that’s a good question that we keep asking with regards to we know that bowel cancer is the second largest cancer killer. And we know that it’s a disease that’s 90 percent preventable but it’s got to be detected early. And the best way to obviously detect bowel cancer early is to actually do a screening test. So again the government provides one in essence at no cost to people. It arrives on your doorstep. And according to the statistics obviously two out of three people don’t actually do it.

Clinton: Is that because they they don’t know about them or are they a little confronted by the test itself.

Annie: I think it’s a bit of that factor. You want me to do what? With what?

Clinton: Well let’s be honest. How does the test work?

Etienne: That particular test is. Some people find a little bit confronting. A little bit kind of yuck if I can use that term right. Am I allowed to say poo on your station?

Clinton: You just have. Etienne you just have. So it involves poo.

Jill: We all know what that means.

Etienne: Well hopefully we all do it. The fact is is that it requires somebody to go to the toilet in one form or the other ultimately capture their own poo out of the faeces. Some particular tests ultimately just require a piece of paper so to speak to be laid with in the toilet. And ultimately you go about your business on that piece of paper and then using a particular device it might look like for a graphic example kind of looks like a toothpick type of thing which you use to poke and prod the actual poo. And that ultimately is used just to collect a sample as such which is ultimately been sent off to the pathology company.

Clinton: I’ve never heard that explained to me before. What the process is. I now have no doubt that is part of the reason why some people are apprehensive about the test.

Jill: Of course.

Etienne: Yeah. And we hear that you know. My concern always is to the people which is the fact again going back down to the numbers, if it’s a second largest cancer killer do the test. And I have this conversation a lot with female a lot to some degree which is a sense of them saying well it’s quite a disgusting test and I go well out of the three screening tests that are available to you it’s probably the least disgusting in my opinion. I don’t know I’m an outsider to that. But you know between breast screening, cervical screening and bowel screening this is a test or any of these tests that you take home and you do yourself. But people still look at it and they kind of go there’s no way that I’m going to scratch around in my own business you know for obvious reasons.

Jill: So your company Clinical Genomics you make a bowel testing kit as well don’t you?

Etienne: We do. Yes.

Jill: Could you tell us about that. It’s certainly different isn’t it?

Etienne: It is. It is a little different. Our position ultimately is a sense of saying you know do a kit. If you are simply not doing the test because you don’t want to be scratching around your business, our particular test ultimately is simply a water based test. Where have for lack of simple description basically it looks like a child’s paintbrush. The paintbrush is inserted into the toilet water prior to flushing the toilet. After obviously you’ve gone to the toilet and then we literally require a water sample from the bottom of the toilet to be applied on to a test card. The test card is then sealed and sent off to the pathology lab. And that is then processed.

Clinton: That sounds more palatable to me.

Jill: How accurate is it though given that you’re not really you know.

Etienne: That’s exactly right. Because people go is not a faecal test. How do we know. So the question ultimately is what are we really testing for. And people have this misperception that we’re really looking for cancer. Right. Because it’s a cancer test. The fact is that we all companies, all of these type of tests what’s known as a faecal immunochemical test is really looking for blood or the presence of blood in the stool or in the bowel. So when you’re looking for the accuracy clinically we over the 15 16 years that the company’s been in existence we have been able to both medically and scientifically prove both our sensitivity and specificity. And in essence position as one of the most accurate products available in the market.

Clinton: At what age should people start to think about having a bowel cancer screening test?

Etienne: Look the guidelines ultimately stipulate that people over the age of 50 should be screened.

Annie: It’s always us people over 50.

Jill: Wait till you get to the 60’s. Then you’re really worried.

Clinton: I’ve got nine years.

Annie: Get ready.

Etienne: So over the age of 50 is really recommended because actually it is a disease that obviously increases your risk as you get older. But quite honestly we know that there’s call it a thousand people more or less under the age of 50 they get affected by bowel cancer every year in Australia. So it is a big issue. We obviously want people to be able to screen but they need to understand what their risk factor is. Identifying the risk factors. Talking to their GP obviously if they have a family history. And then going to see your pharmacist if nothing else. You know picking up a bowel cancer screening test if you feel that this is something you want to do today. I mean just do it. It’s a really simple simple test.

Jill: So the kids are available at pharmacies?

Etienne: Yes.

Jill: And what about GPs. Do doctors tend to carry them?

Etienne: Yes. So a lot do. We deal with a lot of general practitioners throughout the country as well as a lot of pharmacies. A lot of the leading pharmacies throughout Australia really carry our particular product. And it is you know people can walk in and basically either get them over the counter from a pharmacy or really you know just get them from the GP.

Annie: So we need to encourage everyone to get out there and do their bowel screening kits. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Jill: It’s been really really interesting. Thank you.

Etienne: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Clinton: Have a look at this website bowelscreenaustralia.org. This is Older, Wiser, Happier with Annie and Jill Donaldson for agedcare101.com.au.

The Donaldson sisters focus on living today and looking forward positively to the next 10, 20 and 30 years. They get important topics and perspectives on the table for open discussion – topics that aren’t often raised in the mainstream media and voices and perspectives less frequently heard.


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