Pathologists in Hobart have enlisted a notorious piece of artwork by a Belgian concept artist to help them in the battle against bowel cancer.
Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is home to Cloaca Professional — also known as the poo machine.
The large assembly of hanging vessels connected by tubes is the work of Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye, which was unveiled at MONA’s Berriedale location, north of Hobart, in 2010.
Specially commissioned by MONA’s founder David Walsh, Cloaca replicates the gastroenterological journey food takes, beginning at mastication and ending several hours later in defecation, complete with the authentic smell.
Visitors to MONA are invited to view the “feeding” twice a day, where a staff member places small portions of food into a receptacle where it is ingested, slowly passing through a range of processes before it emerges at the other end of the machine as faecal matter, daily about 2:00pm.
Today, Cloaca’s afternoon effort was screened for bowel cancer to demonstrate the simplicity of the test, which most Australians over 50 have had posted to them as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
The test involves analysing a small sample for the presence of microscopic amounts of blood, not visible to the naked eye, with follow-up testing occurring depending on the results.
Pathologist Daniel Owens said 60 per cent of people who had received a screening kit in the mail were yet to complete and return it.
“Potentially people are going undiagnosed with significant bowel disease,” Dr Owens said.
About 4,000 Australians die every year of bowel cancer, and Tasmania has the highest death rate, losing 150 people to the disease every year.
Dr Owens said the screening kits would significantly reduce that rate by catching it early.
“Once people get their head around turning into the toilet and putting the stick into the poo they’ll realise it’s very simple and very easy,” he said.
“There’s a yuck factor about dealing with poo but we have to deal with that every day so we need to just do it and get on with it.”
The choice of the poo machine was deliberate, with the campaign going under the hashtag of #justpooit.
The event, a joint effort between the Tasmanian Committee of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, with support from MONA, the Tasmanian Cancer Council and Tasmanian Cancer Screening Services, was devised to attract as much attention as possible to encourage participation in the “potentially life-saving program”.