Australians most at risk of bowel cancer will have access to more frequent screening 14 years ahead of schedule, with the Abbott Government today delivering on its election promise to fast track the programme in a bid to save more lives.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Abbott Government would invest an additional $95.9 million to ensure Australians aged 50 to 74 would receive a free, at home bowel cancer screening kit every two years by 2020 rather than 2034 as was planned under the previous government.
Ms Ley said previously people were only sent screening kits every five years between the age of 50 and 65 with nothing sent to those aged 66 to 74. With only one third of Australians completing the testing kits sent to them.
In order to support greater participation, Ms Ley also launched the ‘a gift for living’ bowel cancer screening awareness campaign that, once fully rolled out, could potentially save up to 500 lives each year.
“Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia with approximately 80 Australians dying each week,” Ms Ley said.
“However, unfortunately there is still quite a stigma with bowel cancer screening and that is something this campaign is designed to address.
“The kit is simple and discreet to use in the privacy of your own home. We need more people completing their testing kits as bowel cancer often has no symptoms and early detection saves lives.”
Ms Ley said Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.
“The Abbott Government is serious about increasing cancer screening rates and this $95 million commitment will deliver the expanded programme 14 years earlier than previously planned,” Ms Ley said.
“The risk of bowel cancer increases from the age of 50, however if detected early and managed nine-out-of-10 cases can be successfully treated.”
“I encourage everyone to complete and return their bowel cancer screening kit when they receive it as the more Australians that are screened, the more lives will be saved.”
Ms Ley said it is estimated that, once fully implemented, the programme will invite about 4 million Australians to screen each year and could detect approximately 3,500 potential bowel cancers each year.
The expansion of the programme to include the additional age groups of 70 and 74 began this year.
The $3 million ‘a gift for living’ promotional campaign begins and will run across print, radio and online media to make sure Australians who receive a bowel screening invitation are aware of its importance.
The expansion will be implemented in phases over a five year period between 2015 and 2020:
· 70 and 74 year olds have already commenced screening
· 72 and 64 year olds added in 2016-17
· 68, 58 and 54 year olds added in 2017-18
· 66 and 62 year olds added in 2018-19
· 56 and 52 year olds added in 2019-20.
The Howard Government introduced the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2006 and this expansion delivers on a key 2013 election commitment.
For more information, visit Australia.gov.au/bowelscreening or call the information line on 1800 11 88 68.