Respected community identity Alan Ellis has urged people to take bowel cancer screening seriously after a lucky escape from the disease.

The former CFA Deputy Chief Officer and Bendigo Regional YMCA board president credits a decision to get serious about his health and visit his GP for regular check ups for saving his life.

Mr Ellis had no idea the fatigue and vague gastro-like symptoms he revealed to his GP would signal the start of a traumatic 11-month journey of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and recovery from bowel cancer.

He has told his story in support of the Bowel Cancer Screening and Early Detection Project being run by Bendigo Community Health Services with partners Murray PHN, Bendigo Health and Department of Health and Human Services.

“The fact that I took action early and decided to get things checked out enabled early diagnosis and treatment, and this is the primary reason I was able to successfully overcome the disease,” Mr Ellis said.

“This is the reason I believe very strongly in the importance of a bowel screening program.”

Bowel cancer screening is recommended every two years from the age of 50.

Mr Ellis has made a full recovery and today can regularly be seen out jogging or walking as part of an active life that includes honorary roles on the committees of the South Bendigo Football Netball Club and Relay For Life.

He has called on Bendigo residents to use their GP to help achieve good health and ensure cancer screening is up to date.

“Until something goes wrong, you take your health and wellbeing for granted,” he said.

“For me the big lesson I took from my experience is that you can make appropriate lifestyle choices which enhance your health and fitness but that is only a part of the equation. Routine visits to your GP can provide benchmarks for later in life when things start to naturally deteriorate and, as in my case, they can also enable early detection and intervention if something has gone suddenly wrong.”

Where you can you get a bowel cancer screening kit

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) provides Australians with kits sent through the mail.

The NBCSP is being phased in, and by 2020, those aged between 50 and 74 will receive a free kit every two years.

In 2016 free kits will be sent to those aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74.

You can check when you will receive your next free kit at or call 1800 118 868.

You can also speak with your GP about bowel cancer screening.