Bowel cancer screening: room to improve

It’s hard to get people interested in bowel cancer screening but once they have participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), they are much more likely to respond to subsequent invitations.

The latest NBCSP monitoring report shows screening rates have only improved marginally from 39% across 2014 to 2015 to 41% for the period January 2015 – December 2016.

However for those people who had participated in an earlier round of the program, 77% participated again.

The AIHW report said about 3.2 million people in the target population aged 50–74 years were invited for screening during the two-year period.

About 59,000 or 8% of those who were screened returned a positive screening test. Of those who received a positive screening test, 68% had reported a follow-up diagnostic assessment.

The median time from positive screening test result to diagnostic assessment was 54 days.

Of the participants who had a diagnostic assessment in 2016:

  • <1% had a bowel cancer detected and confirmed by histopathology
  • 3.2% had a suspected bowel cancer awaiting confirmation
  • 12.1% had an adenoma diagnosed by histopathology
  • 57.2% had no adenoma or cancer recorded
  • 26.9% were still awaiting histopathology outcomes.

“Participants who identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, those who lived in Very remote areas, and those who lived in low socioeconomic areas all had higher rates of positive screens, but had lower rates of follow-up diagnostic assessment, and a longer median time between a positive screen and assessment,” the report said.

It estimated about 17,000 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer and 4,100 people will die from the disease in 2018.

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