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Bowel Cancer Screening Test Underutilised

Minister for Health, Peter Dutton
Minister for Health, Peter Dutton

Thousands of Australians are dying of bowel cancer every year, yet a disturbing number of people are failing to utilise the free bowel cancer screening test issued by the Australian Government.

The  Government sends a free bowel cancer screening test kit by mail to eligible Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65, but the latest National Bowel Cancer Screening Program monitoring report 2012–13, issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows that just a third of around one million people invited to participate in the program in the past year returned a completed test for analysis.

Minister for Health Peter Dutton said that about 23,500 participants (7.5 per cent) who returned a valid screening test had a positive screening result.

“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. “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.”

Since 2006, more than four and a half million people have been sent the bowel cancer screening kit and the programme has detected over 9400 advanced adenomas and over 3000 suspected and confirmed cancers. The overall participation rate in 2012-13 was slightly lower than that of the previous monitoring report and small decreases were evident in all three target age groups.

From 2015, 70 and 74 year olds will be invited to screen as part of the expansion of the programme. For more information on the Australian Government’s bowel cancer screening program, visit the Cancer Screening website or phone the Information Line on 1800 118 868.
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