Despite its high incidence, bowel cancer is one of the most detectable and, if found earlier enough, most treatable forms of cancer.
90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if found early, but fewer than 40 per cent are.
This is in stark contrast to the reality experienced by many Australians, with 83% not receiving a colonoscopy within the recommended 30 days following a positive screen, according to a recent AIHW report.
Recent research shows patients who experienced delays of 6-12 months had greater odds of bowel cancer, including advanced-stage cancer, compared to those who received a colonoscopy within the recommended 30 days following a positive screen.
“We know that up to ninety per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated when detected early," said colorectal surgeon A/Prof Graham Newstead AM, Director of Bowel Cancer Australia.
"However, early detection requires people with a positive screen or symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer to have access to the necessary follow-up procedure within the recommended timeframe.”
“Bowel Cancer Australia is calling on Federal, State and Territory Governments to adequately fund colonoscopy services to reduce the delays which currently exceed government endorsed timeframes,” A/Prof Newstead said.
Medical negligence lawyer, Tom Ballantyne from Maurice Blackburn said delays create a serious litigation risk for health services.
“The risk of litigation becomes very real if delays continue for many months," Mr Blackburn said.
"You may have people whose bowel cancer progresses as a result.”
“The expansion of the government screening program combined with Australia's ageing population will continue to place additional pressures on the public health system,” A/Prof Newstead said.
In 2014-15, only 25% of colonoscopy procedures were performed in public health care facilities.
However, by 2021 the demand for colonoscopies in Australia is projected to reach 1.11 million, with the government screening program accounting for around 9 percent of those colonoscopies.
For more information about colonoscopy visit our website or download our Preparation for Colonoscopy resource.
If you have specific bowel cancer questions, contact our Bowel Care Nurse Helpline at 1800 555 494.
The Don't Wait Until It's Too Late campaign aims to have a lasting impact where no one dies from bowel cancer and all those diagnosed receive the support they need.