Bowel cancer screening rates fall

Test could saves lives, but participation rates have dropped.
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01.Screening saves lives

microscope inspecting bowel screening test kit

Bowel cancer is the cause of death of thousands of Australians, and yet an increasing number of people are failing to complete a simple, potentially life-saving screening test, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The government sends a free bowel cancer screening test kit by mail to eligible Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65. But only one-third of the 964,000 people invited to participate returned a completed bowel cancer screening kit for analysis, according to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program monitoring report: 2012-13. These figures are slightly lower than in the previous year. 

“The good news is that since the program started in 2006, over 3000 suspected or confirmed cancers have been detected, showing its effectiveness in detecting and preventing bowel cancer,” said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

Figures from the program continue to underscore how crucial screening is in the fight against cancer. Of the participants who returned a valid screening test in 2012-13, 7.5 per cent had a positive screening result. 

“One participant in every 32 who underwent a colonoscopy following a positive screening result was diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer, a total of 404 people in 2012-13.” Harvey said.

Advanced adenomas, which are benign growths that have the potential to become cancerous, were found in a further 728 people.

Minister for Health Peter Dutton is appealing for people to take action. “Around 80 Australians die each week from bowel cancer, despite the fact that if it’s detected early, it’s one of most treatable types of cancer there is,” he said.

“This easy and effective test can be completed in the privacy of your own home and can save up to 500 lives a year.

“I urge Australians to talk to their GPs and to act quickly on symptoms; just imagine how many more lives could be saved if more people took the test.”



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