Approximately 5.7 million people aged 50-74 were invited to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) between 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2019, according to data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Of those, only 2.5 million took up the offer to screen using the tax-funded kit delivered in the mail.
This was a participation rate of just 43.8%.
“When found early, nearly 99% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated," said colorectal surgeon Dr Graham Newstead AM.
On average, women had a higher participation rate than men (46% compared with 42%) and participation rates increased with age.
The low level of participation among individuals aged 50-54 was particularly alarming, with only 1-in-3 (33.9%) returning a completed screening test.
Research shows a 72% spike in bowel cancer detection rates (in Australia) between the ages of 49 and 50, with 45% of cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage, which suggests undetected cancers in the late 40s population.
If you are ineligible for the NBCSP but would like to participate in screening appropriate to your personal level of risk, you can purchase a BowelScreen Australia test online, in participating pharmacies, or by calling 1800 555 494.