30 August 2002
More than 50,000 people aged 55-74 years will take part in a screening pilot programme for the early detection of bowel cancer, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, has announced.
The $7.2 million pilot bowel cancer project will start in Mackay, Queensland, in November and then in Melbourne and Adelaide over the next 6 months.
People in the target age group will be mailed self-test kits, which can be used in their homes. The kits can detect small amounts of blood in the faeces, which can be an early indicator of bowel cancer.
Senator Patterson said the pilot project was the first step in the consideration of a national screening programme for bowel cancer.
'Bowel cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia, after lung cancer,' she said.
'About 90 people die every week of this disease. About one in 20 Australians will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
'There is now good evidence from overseas that bowel cancer can be detected early using testing kits capable of detecting microscopic amounts of blood in faeces. Overseas trials of this testing have shown that early detection can cut bowel cancer death rates by up to 33 per cent.'
Senator Patterson said the Federal Government would evaluate the 18-month pilot projects before making a decision on whether to establish a national bowel cancer screening programme.
She said the bowel cancer trial had the potential to have the same public health impact as the national cervical and breast cancer testing programmes, which had reduced deaths.
Senator Patterson said: 'The National Cervical Screening Programme has resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in mortality between 1986 and 1997. Cervical cancer has fallen from the eighth to the 14th most common cancer. Breast cancer deaths among women in the screening age group of 50-69 have fallen by 16.9 per cent between 1993 and 1998.'
According to Senator Patterson, this will be the first time that men have been involved in a mass screening cancer trial.
She said: 'It will be important to get the highest participation rate we can in this trial, particularly among men, who have not traditionally participated in such programmes. Men have a higher incidence and, as a result, a higher death rate than women from bowel cancer.'
Last Reviewed: 28 August 2002