Only two in five Australians are taking the bowel cancer screening test

15 Jun 2017

GPs may wish to encourage their patients over 50 to take the free home screening test for bowel cancer, with data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showing only two in five Australians eligible for the test are actually taking it.

In 2006 the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program began providing free bowel screening kits to people turning 55 and 65 years. Those turning 50 and 60 were included from July 2008 and 2013 respectively. Program expansion to implement biennial screening for those aged 50–74 started in January 2015. It is due to be completed by 2020. Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia and the second-highest cause of cancer death in Australia.

AMA Vice President, Dr Tony Bartone, told SBS that all people – not just those over 50 – should be alert to symptoms that may indicate a problem.

"It's important to realise that, even though this screening program is looking specifically at 50- to 74-year-olds, the symptoms of bleeding from the back passage, and/or unexplained weight loss, or a change in bowel habits need to be followed up and need to be discussed with your doctor," Dr Bartone said.