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Bowel cancer screening still bottom of Australians’ concerns

Monday 22 June, 2015

63% of Victorians invited into the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are not taking part

Despite having access to a free life-saving screening test for Australia’s second-biggest cancer killer, 63% of Victorians invited into the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are still not taking part, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Monitoring Report 2013-14, released today.
“Thousands of Australians are missing out and putting themselves at risk by not making the easy choice to screen for bowel cancer,” said Cancer Council Victoria’s Screening Manager, Kate Broun.
Nationally, participation rates have increased from 33.4% in 2012-13 to 36% in 2013-14.
The increase in rates was mainly due to the second round of invitations to 55 and 60-year-olds who had participated in the program five years earlier with a re-participation rate of more than 70%.
“The very high participation rates of second-round screeners to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a good sign that the test is simple and easy to do for people who are already familiar with the test,” said Ms Broun.
“But as the program continues to invite more Australians to the program*, GPs need to encourage their patients aged 50 and over to use the program’s faecal occult blood test (FOBT). GPs are the key to promoting this very reliable test as the first step for Australians to detect bowel cancer risk. 
“While we’re encouraged that the program accurately detects 83% of cancers in the first round of screening, the report shows room for improvement in follow-up with a health care professional after a positive FOBT result.
“Low awareness of bowel cancer could be the reason participation in the program remains small,” said Ms Broun.
“Bowel cancer is responsible for more deaths than breast cancer, melanoma and leukaemia, yet somehow bowel cancer remains low on the concerns of Australians,” she said.
*If you turn 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 or 74 years old in 2015, you will receive in the mail the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit to complete. By 2020, everyone aged 50 to 74 will receive a kit every two years in the mail. 
For people aged over 50 and not yet eligible for the national program, you should still be screened for bowel cancer every two years. You should speak with your doctor, or can purchase a kit from the Cancer Council online at or by calling 13 11 20.
Interviews are available. Contact Ali Hickerson Media & Communications Adviser, 0455 043 324 
63% of Victorians invited into the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are not taking part.