Millions of Australians to receive free bowel screening kits in 2016

Thursday 14 January, 2016

New survey finds kit is easy and painless 

Approximately two million Australians will be invited to screen for bowel cancer for free in 2016 with the continued rollout of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. This year, approximately 300,000 people will be added to the program.

In 2016:

  • 64 and 72-year-olds will be added to the program
  • All age-groups invited to the program are: 50, 55, 60, 64, 65*, 70, 72 and 74 year-olds

*Invitations to 65-year-olds will cease in 2017 and more age groups will be added.

The words most commonly used to describe Victorians' experience of using the national program's faecal occult blood test (FOBT) are ‘simple', ‘easy,' and ‘painless', according to a new Cancer Council Victoria survey1

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program began in 2006 and has been progressively expanding the age groups invited to participate. By 2020, all Australians aged 50 to 74 will be invited to participate every two years.

Research2 shows that 70,000 deaths can be prevented in Australia in the coming 40 years with full roll-out of the program. 

Kate Broun, Cancer Council Victoria Screening Manager said that while approximately three in four people who had previously used the national program FOBT repeated the test when re-invited, the biggest challenge is to get Victorians to use the at-home screening kit for the first time.

"While momentum is building within the National Bowel Screening Program, with more and more Australians given the chance to get free and non-invasive bowel screening - fewer than four in ten Victorians who are invited to screen are sending back a completed test kit," Ms Broun said.

The FOBT should be the first step for all Australians aged 50 and over who do not have symptoms to screen for bowel cancer, the country's second-largest cause of cancer death to men and women. Speak to your doctor for more information."

Nine in 10 bowel cancers can be successfully treated with early detection.

  1. Bowel cancer screening: Results from an online survey of Victorians was conducted online in 2015. 993 Victorians aged 50 to 74 who have previously been invited to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program completed the online survey.
  2. Cenin, Dayna R. "Optimising the expansion of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program," Medical Journal of Australia 2014; 201: p458-463