The Australian Federal Government has pledged $10 million to the Cancer Council Australia to help tackle bowel cancer, as thousands of Australians continue to ignore the free bowel cancer kit sent to their homes.
Bowel Cancer is the second most common cancer in the country and is the most common cancer in people aged over 50. Also known as colorectal cancer, it develops from the inner lining of the bowel.
The investment from the government will help fund a national mass media campaign to encourage more Australians to screen for bowel cancer with a simple home test that can save lives.
“It is estimated that over 17,000 Australians were diagnosed with bowel cancer last year – and over 4,000 died as a result,” Cancer Council Australia CEO Sanchia Aranda said. “Yet, currently only around four in 10 eligible Australians complete the home bowel cancer screening test when it arrives in the mail. Cancer Council research has shown that if this figure was increased to just six in 10, around 84,000 lives could be saved in the next 20 years.”
Every two years, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program mails free bowel cancer screening tests to all Australians aged between 50 and 74. Once a kit is received, it’s as simple as a person going to the bathroom in their own home. Complete with everything a person needs to successfully obtain their stool sample, the kit allows scientists to detect traces of blood in the stool which can be a sign of bowel cancer.
“This will be the first major national campaign to encourage bowel cancer screening participation – and promotes one of the most important public health programs in Australia’s history,” Aranda added.
Bowel cancer doesn’t always show symptoms and is often called the “silent killer” because there are no warning signs. The good news is 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found early.
“The home screening test identifies early signs that cancer is developing and has already saved thousands of Australian lives through early detection,” James St John, bowel screening advisor to Cancer Council Australia, said in a statement.
“However, Australia’s national bowel cancer screening program will only reach its full potential if more Australians do the test. This national campaign will help to ensure that more Australians over 50 recognise that bowel cancer screening is a life-saving opportunity not to be missed.”
The Government first commenced a phased-in roll-out of Australia’s free screening program in 2006, with the final two age groups (52 and 56 year olds) added to the program for the first time this year. By 2020, every Australian aged between 50 and 74 will be offered free screening every two years, meaning four million Aussies will be invited to screen each year. More than 12,000 suspected or confirmed cancers will be detected each year as a result of the screening.
The new funding will allow three separate seven-week bursts of mass media activity this year, including further communications support from Cancer Council and outreach to GPs to encourage them to help encourage their patients to do the test.