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BREAKING NEWS: Average-risk screening from age 45

Bowel Cancer Australia

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The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated guidelines for those at average risk of bowel cancer to begin screening from age 45 (previously age 50), in response to the increasing rates of the disease in young and middle-aged populations.

A major analysis conducted by the ACS, found people born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared to those born in 1950.

Experts have concluded more lives will be saved if bowel cancer screening begins at age 45 for people at average risk of developing the disease.

Screening can be done annually using an at-home faecal immunochemical test (FIT) (bowel cancer screening test – i.e. BowelScreen Australia) or once every ten years through colonoscopy.

To successfully complete the screening process, the new guidelines stress that a positive FIT must be followed up by timely colonoscopy.

“We know 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early,” Associate Professor Newstead said.

“But people who receive a positive screen or experience bowel cancer symptoms must receive a timely follow-up colonoscopy, or the opportunity for early detection is lost,” said A/Prof Newstead.

The updated guidelines also recommend people who are in good health, with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular bowel cancer screening with FIT or colonoscopy through to the age of 75.

For people aged 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.

With tomorrow marking the beginning of Bowel Cancer Australia’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, this ground-breaking announcement provides a timely reminder that Australia’s own guidelines for bowel cancer screening may need to be strengthened.

In October 2017, the NHMRC approved the updated Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer, which recommend screening for people at average risk of developing bowel cancer begin at age 50-74, and be conducted every 2 years with FIT.

For those with category 1 risk of bowel cancer with one relative with bowel cancer, a practice point reference was included for screening with FIT to be considered every two years from age 45.

This cautious approach highlights the disparity between Australia and our international counterparts when it comes to taking decisive steps to help save lives from Australia’s sending deadliest cancer.

Bowel Cancer Australia recommends that people participate in screening appropriate to their personal level of risk.

And sadly, bowel cancer rates among those aged 50 and under are rising both in Australia and internationally and there has been a 186% increase in bowel cancer cases in adolescents and young adults (15-24 years) over the past three decades.

Bowel cancer is now the most common cause of cancer death for Australians aged 25–29, while bowel cancer and brain cancer are responsible for the greatest number of cancer deaths for those aged 30-34.

As part of the global Never Too Young Coalition, Bowel Cancer Australia has tirelessly raised awareness that you’re never too young for bowel cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in the world and second deadliest cancer in Australia, and armed people with the resources and tools to incite change.

Our community of #Never2Young Champions, passionate Australians diagnosed with young-onset bowel cancer and their families, have joined us in vocally championing what matters most to people affected by bowel cancer and empowering them with the tools and knowledge to be advocates for their own health.

We’ve not let up and should be very proud of the achievements of our US counterparts as we continue to advocate for change in Australia. There is still much work to be done.

All Australians need to participate in screening appropriate to their personal level of risk and have access to timely colonoscopy following a positive test.

Bowel Cancer Australia’s mission is to have an everlasting impact on our health future - one where no Australian dies from bowel cancer and all those diagnosed receive the support they need.

We will continue to spread the important ‘Bowel Cancer… You’re Never Too Young’ message through dynamic campaigning that raises awareness and motivates action, and we ask that you join us.

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and we’re kicking it off with our annual Never Too Young Awareness Week. For further details and to get involved head to bowelcanceraustralia.org