Tarryn Chapman remembers feeling stressed as she sat in her GP’s office, awaiting a referral to a gastroenterologist.
The Perth mother-of-three had been experiencing bloody stools and diarrhoea for 10 days, prompting a visit to her doctor. After an inconclusive stool sample, her GP recommended she get a colonoscopy.
The common procedure, in which a small camera is used to examine the large bowel, is the main test used to investigate or diagnose bowel cancer.
"I was worried, because obviously you immediately think it could be cancer," she says.
"And with three young kids, I was concerned.”
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia with around 14,000 new cases diagnosed every year1.
Most people who have a colonoscopy do not have bowel cancer, but the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival for those with bowel cancer improves significantly with early detection2. Doctors will often recommend a colonoscopy if symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood and/or mucus in the stool, changes in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss are experienced for more than a few weeks2.
Within a week of getting the referral from her GP, Tarryn was in the hospital waiting room. The procedure gave her some definitive answers about her symptoms: she had ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
She has since been able to manage her symptoms with anti-inflammatory medication.“They put me on six to eight weeks of medication, and it cleared up,” she says.
"I’ve never had any problems since, but it can reoccur."
Tarryn chose to have the procedure at a Member Plus hospital for an agreed service so she was fully covered for the colonoscopy.
She was able to receive benefits for her colonoscopy in a private hospital because she had already served her waiting periods. For colonoscopies, waiting periods are two months, or 12 months if the condition was pre-existing.
Tarryn says being able to book the procedure in a private hospital, where wait times are often shorter than through the public system, helped her get answers quickly and gave her the peace of mind she needed.
“I was stressed because there’s not too many things it can be with blood in the stool, so it's nice that my private health insurance allowed me to have the procedure quickly," she says.
1Cancer Council Australia - Early detection of bowel cancer
2Cancer Council Australia - Colonsocopy
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