The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

5 May 2012

Expansion of program to fight bowel cancer

The Gillard Government's life-saving National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will be expanded under the 2012-13 Budget to provide additional screenings to people aged 60 and 70.

The program will receive a $49.7 million boost and be extended to screen Australians turning 60 from 2013 and 70 from 2015. This achieves regular five yearly screening for the at-risk population between 50 and 70 years of age.

The program will be further extended in 2017-18, when a phased implementation of biennial screening will commence, beginning with 72 year olds.

Invitations to undergo screening every two years will then be progressively extended to all Australians between 50 and 74 years of age.

Currently, bowel cancer screening is provided free to people aged 50, 55 and 65.

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.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia - eighty people die of bowel cancer each week, the majority aged over 50 years.

The good news is that bowel cancer is preventable if detected early, and bowel screening is effective in reducing the incidence of bowel cancer - and saving lives - when it is offered at regular intervals.

The initial extension of the program will see Australians screened every five years, from the age of 50. It will then be progressively extended further so that people are screened every two years.

When fully implemented, all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years will be offered screening every two years, consistent with recommendations from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Under the Gillard Government's National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Australians are offered free test kits and are reminded to see their GP and have a colonoscopy if their test proves positive.

The Government will also continue working closely with stakeholders to build awareness about the screening program, increase rates of participation and follow-up by participants who have a positive screening test.

The Government will provide funding of $50,000 from an existing program to the Jodie Lee Foundation to continue its work to raise awareness of the benefits of bowel cancer screening.

The evidence shows that biennial screening has the potential to reduce colorectal cancers by 15 per cent to 25 per cent and prevent between 300 and 500 Australian deaths annually.

Early detection through population screening increases the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival improves significantly.

Any Australians, including younger people, who have concerns about their risk of bowel cancer should discuss their health with their general practitioner.