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Bowel cancer screening boost

Older Australians will be screened for bowel cancer every five years under a $50 million upgrade to the exisitng program in the Federal Budget. The Federal Government said the funding boost meant that from next year free bowel cancer tests will be available for 60-year-olds, and for 70-year-olds from 2015, helping to plug gaps in the nationwide screening program.

09 May 2012

Older Australians will be screened for bowel cancer every five years under a $50 million upgrade to the exisitng program in the Federal Budget.

The Federal Government said the funding boost meant that from next year free bowel cancer tests will be available for 60-year-olds, and for 70-year-olds from 2015, helping to plug gaps in the nationwide screening program.

Currently, free screening is available for people aged 50, 55 and 65 years of age, and the Government wants to eventually offer free tests every two years for people aged between 50 and 74 years.

In a joint statement, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, said bowel cancer was the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, killing 80 people a week, with the majority 50 years or older.

“Bowel cancer is preventable if detected early, and screening is effective in reducing the incidence of bowel cancer when it is offered at regular intervals,” the ministers said. “The extension of the bowel screening program will save lives, and early detection of disease will significantly reduce the cost of treatment and the burden on patients and their families.”

Under the Government’s plan free screening every two years, as yet unfunded, will be phased in from 2017-18, beginning with 72-year-olds.

Invitations to be tested every two years will then be “progressively extended” to all within the 50 to 74 years target range, though no end date for the transition has been set.

The extension to the screening program has been welcomed by most health groups, though Bowel Cancer Australia accused the Government of falling short on its commitment to introduce screening every two years.

The lobby group told online news service 6 Minutes that the Government was sending out mixed signals by funding tests every five years when National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommended screening every two years.

According to a study published by Cancer Council chief executive Professor Ian Olver and head of Flinders Centre for Cancer Prevention and Control Dr Graeme Young in the Medical Journal of Australia this week, screening people between 50 and 74 years of age every two years could save 500 lives a year. 

 

AR


Published: 09 May 2012