The Rudd Government's $87 million budget commitment to screen all Australians aged 50, 55 and 65 for bowel cancer is a welcome step towards fully implementing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Cancer Council Australia said today.
Cancer Council Australia Chief Executive Officer Professor Ian Olver said the Rudd Government should be commended for allocating significant funds towards bowel cancer screening, which has been shown to prevent more than a third of bowel cancer deaths among the screened population.
Professor Olver said the Cancer Council called on government to screen all Australians aged 50 and over for bowel cancer, as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council, by 2012 - a measure that could save 30 lives each week.
"Health Minister Nicola Roxon's comments that this 2008-09 allocation is to build capacity until the bowel cancer screening program is fully implemented through the Commonwealth/state health care agreements are very encouraging," he said.
"The Cancer Council has long said that the program, one of only three forms of population-based cancer screening shown to save significant numbers of lives, should be fully operational by 2012.
"Maintaining the current arrangements to screen 55 and 65-year-olds, while extending screening to 50-year-olds as Labor promised in last year's election, will reduce bowel cancer mortality and morbidity in Australia.
"By allocating $87 million towards continued implementation of the program, the Prime Minister and Health Minister clearly appreciate the importance of bowel cancer screening to their national health reform agenda.
"The challenge now is to move towards full implementation by 2012 to maximise the screening program's potential to save lives."
Professor Olver said bowel cancer was the deadliest form of cancer in Australia after lung cancer, claiming more than 80 Australian lives each week. Its human and economic impact would increase significantly as our population ages, adding to the urgency of a fully operational screening program for all Australians over 50 by 2012.