The south-west has significantly higher rates of bowel cancer, Cancer Council analysis has found.
The sobering interactive map The Australian Cancer Atlas, endorsed by the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries and Cancer Council Australia, shows the incidence of bowel cancer in Warrnambool is 17 per cent above the national average.
On average, 205 locals are diagnosed with cancer in Warrnambool City each year and 78 people lose their lives, a Cancer Council spokeswoman said.
Casting the net wider across the south-west, bowel cancer incidences are above the national average:
- 18 per cent in Moyne
- 20 per cent in Hamilton
- 27 per cent in Portland
- 24 per cent in Glenelg
- 17 per cent in Corangamite
- 19 per cent in Camperdown
- 18 per cent in Southern Grampians
- Nine per cent in Colac
Warrnambool surgeon Joe Ragg, who specialises in bowel surgeries and bowel cancer, said lifestyle factors can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
"Risk factors such as obesity, low rates of physical activity, fat and meat consumption and socioeconomic disadvantage - unfortunately we're above average for those things," Mr Ragg said.
"These are major risk factors and unfortunately people don't realise how important something as simple as exercise is.
"We live in a beautiful environment to get outside and get active in, there's no excuse not to."
Only 45.2 per cent of eligible residents in Warrnambool aged 50-74 have participated in bowel screening, according to the Cancer Council.
Mr Ragg said all south-west residents should be entering the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
"People should be encouraged into the bowel cancer screening program, it reduces your chances of dying from bowel cancer," he said.
"When someone is diagnosed from the screening, statistically the cancer is detected a lot earlier.
"People who are diagnosed of the screening program are often surprised because they are usually asymptomatic.
"If picked up early, the chance of curing it is higher because the surgery is more straight-forward and is safer."
He said any symptoms out of the ordinary warrants a trip to a GP.
"Anything out of the ordinary, including bleeding and a change in bowel patterns, your GP should be your first port of call," Mr Ragg said.
"Symptoms of concern should be discussed freely just like symptoms of any other issue, don't wait."
Other factors such as older age, family history of bowel cancer and having conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease also increase the risk of bowel cancer, Mr Ragg said.
The Great South Coast Community Cancer Expo
Deakin University, Warrnambool, will host the Great South Coast Community Cancer Expo, or CAN-Ex.
Showing October 19 from 8.30am to 2pm, the free event will host workshops and Q&A sessions.
"CAN-Ex is addressed to the whole community. The idea is based on the fact that the whole community is not always aware of what is available in matter of cancer treatment, or have some misconception about them, and service of supports for cancer patients," South West Healthcare cancer service development project manager Dr Nathalie Davis said.
"With the opening of the Regional Cancer Centre, the environment in matter of services provision has evolved.
"CAN-Ex is the occasion to show case what is available in the Great South Coast - not just in Warrnambool, but the rest of the GSC region - and how cancer patients and their family, carers and friends can be supported. The expo will also inform people on prevention, treatment, supportive care and survivorship."
The expo will start with a free tai chi class then will lead to the core of CAN-Ex which is a Q&A session that will take place mid-morning.
The panel members of this Q&A will include local medical oncologists, radio-oncologists and therapists, GPs, surgeons, psychologists and palliative care nurses.
"The session will start with flash presentations of what radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are," Ms Davis said.
"Then altogether these experts will answer the questions the community members may have about treatments and services available in the region.
"The workshops will cover subjects such as exercise and cancer, the emotional impact of cancer, advance care planning, palliative care, information for carer, where to start if you are diagnosed with cancer, some practical beauty advice for women, some specific support for men with cancer."
A website will be launched early August that will provide information, links to registration and the program of the day.
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