New data shows only around one in three Victorians aged over 50 are taking up the opportunity to have a free bowel cancer screening test.
Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. In 2014, 3,686 Victorians were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 1,320 people died from the disease.
For bowel cancer, early detection provides the best chance of a positive prognosis, and 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found early. However, only 37.6 per cent of eligible Victorians participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2013-14.
The Local Government Areas with the lowest participation rates of screening are:
- Melbourne 32. 9%
- Casey 32.8%
- Melton 32.7%
- Hume 32.5%
- Frankston 32.2%
The Local Government Areas with the highest participation rates of screening are:
- East Gippsland 47.2%
- Horsham 46.2%
- Wangaratta 46.1%
- Indigo 45.2%
- Mansfield 45.1%
Overall, Victoria’s participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is still better than the national average (36 per cent), but the Andrews Labor Government wants to encourage more eligible Victorians to take the test.
Under the Program, free testing kits are mailed to Australians aged between 50 and 74. It is a very simple test that can be done at home, and should be done every two years. Participants with a positive test result are advised to visit their general practitioner who will generally refer them for a colonoscopy.
People aged over 50 who haven’t received a kit can contact Cancer Council Victoria, or see their pharmacist or family doctor for a test, which would normally cost $35 to $40.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy
“Screening is key to fighting bowel cancer. Around 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.”
“This data reminds us that we have more to do to raise awareness about this program and to encourage eligible Victorians to take advantage of this free test.”
"If you are over 50, I urge you to take the free test. It's simple, you can do it in the privacy of your own home, and it could potentially save your life."
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
Victorian Participation Rates (people aged 50 to 74)
Reviewed 19 August 2020