The federal government is advising people in the 45-49 age group who wish to undertake newly-recommended bowel screening tests to see their GP or buy a test kit from a pharmacy.
Although the NHMRC has lowered the recommended age of screening to 45, the National Bower Cancer Screening Program will continue to mail test kits only to people in the 50-74 year age range while the government considers the financial and colonoscopy capacity impacts of the widening of screening.
In its response to recent NHMRC-approved updates to the Clinical practice guidelines for the prevention, early detection, and management of colorectal cancer the Department of Health and Aged Care said it “is carefully considering the implications of lowering the eligible starting age of the NBCSP from 50 to 45 years, including the costs and flow-on effects for the broader health system.”
“The Australian Government is considering lowering the eligible starting age of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program from 50 to 45 years. For now, we will continue to send kits to eligible Australians aged 50 to 74,” it said in a statement released on 8 November.
“Until the government has considered possible changes to the NBCSP … people aged 45 to 49 can speak to their doctor, who can offer screening with a Medicare-funded kit. You can also purchase a private screening kit at pharmacies or online,” it advised.
As previously reported in the limbic, Minister for Health Mark Butler is yet to commit to the expansion of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which would reportedly add an extra $33 million annually to the cost.
Cancer Council Australia was contracted by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care (the Department) to review and update two chapters of the 2017 Clinical practice guidelines .
The new update states that “the recommended strategy for population screening in Australia, directed at those at average risk of colorectal cancer and without relevant symptoms, is immunochemical faecal occult blood testing every two years, starting at age 45 years and continuing to age 74 years.”
If implemented would involve an additional 1.64 million screening tests sent out every two years, according to the report.