Bowel Cancer Australia welcomes any development that provides more Australians with access to bowel cancer screening but is concerned that the Government’s pre-budget announcement is sending mixed messages about when to screen.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is currently available to people turning 50, 55 and 65 years of age.
Julien Wiggins, chief executive, Bowel Cancer Australia said the only action in this year’s pre-budget announcement is the addition of people aged 60 years.
“That means from next year we will have a five-year screening program for people at 50, 55, 60 and 65 years. However, medical professionals and guidelines recommend screening at least every two years from age 50 - so 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60 and so on. It’s sending a very mixed message to Australians.”
“Some people are already incorrectly thinking that five year screening is the norm - that’s concerning. Medical recommendations are there for a reason and the Government itself recommends two yearly screening.”
“Research shows that screening for bowel cancer at least every two years can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to 33 per cent. That’s because regular screening can either prevent bowel cancer or detect it in its early stages when treatment has a much greater chance of succeeding.”
Bowel Cancer Australia has been consistent with its calls for screening at least every two years for people aged 50 and over (full implementation), so it was disappointed that there is no real indication of when this is going to occur.
“This is a pre-budget announcement regarding an intention to commence phased implementation of the NBCSP from 2017-18. That’s post another election, as is the addition of 70 year olds, and at least 15 years after the NBCSP was piloted.
“The Government has done an excellent job with full implementation of its breast and cervical cancer screening programs. They were implemented in a timely manner with strong awareness campaigns.”
“Australians have been waiting 10 years already for a proper screening program for our second biggest cancer killer. Adding one age group to the screening program in this year’s budget is going to have a very small impact on the families of the 14,000 Australians that will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year.”
Bowel Cancer Australia strongly encourages everyone eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to complete the test.
“We are so committed to making screening available and accessible to all Australians at least once every two years that we have invested our own funds to make this a reality now,” said Mr Wiggins.
BowelScreen Australia® test kits are available to people of all ages from participating community pharmacies. The cost is less than $40 and that includes pathology testing.
BowelScreen Australia® is an initiative of Bowel Cancer Australia and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Neither group receives any funding, monetary or otherwise from the sale of these kits.