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A simple test saves lives

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June 19, 2017

Since joining Goulburn Valley Health as its clinical oncology director five years ago, Zee Wan Wong said the centre had continued to grow.

After becoming a consultant in 2003, Dr Wong came to Shepparton in 2012 when there was just herself and one other consultant.

‘‘Now there are four consultants,’’ Dr Wong said.

‘‘Over the years we’ve grown.’’

Based at the Peter Copulos Cancer and Wellness Centre in Shepparton, Dr Wong said during the past three years they had also begun a trainee program.

And at the end of last year they integrated the service to private health care.

Although there has been rapid growth at the facility, Dr Wong said treatments for bowel cancers had remained consistent.

‘‘Not much has changed in the space for bowel treatments although people need to be aware there are other treatments available depending on what stage the cancer is at,’’ she said.

‘‘Chemotherapy forms the backbone of the treatment; some require surgery and some require radiation. There’s also targeted therapy we call smart treatment.’’

Dr Wong said bowel cancer was one of the most prevalent in the state — second to breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

‘‘This is pretty much the trend we see in many developing countries,’’ she said.

Dr Wong stressed treatment could be straight forward and bowel cancer could be quite curable if detected early.

‘‘Early diagnosis is really important — that’s the key message,’’ she said.

She encouraged those aged over 50 to take up the free bowel scan testing kit, which comes in the post.

‘‘But we do see bowel cancer in young people,’’ Dr Wong said and encouraged anyone with any suspicious symptoms, such as rectal bleeding and abdominal pain, to seek advice from their GP.

‘‘Early diagnosis is important for the cure rate,’’ she said.

Dr Wong said it had been challenging to organise treatment for patients and hoped Shepparton would acquire a radiation machine.

‘‘Radiation treatments are offered in Bendigo and Albury,’’ she said.

‘‘Many patients still have to travel for five to six weeks to receive treatment.

‘‘It’s time spent away from their family and their home.’’

Dr Wong said the addition of Katie Emanuelli’s bowel cancer support nurse role had aided immensely in combating this issue.

‘‘There are so many pieces of the puzzle and coordination of care is really important,’’ she said.

‘‘Katie’s role has been so beneficial from this point of view.

‘‘So we don’t see patients fall through the cracks.’’

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