Further to the recent Croakey posts on a new study evaluating the initial impact of bowel cancer screening, one of the study’s authors has sent in her take on the results.
Dr Sumitra Ananda, a cancer specialist in Melbourne, is hoping the Federal Government acts on the new findings.
“The recent report in the MJA by our group supports the fact that the National Bowel Cancer Screening has the potential to save lives and decrease mortality. The first indicator of this is the dramatic shift in stage distribution between those that were diagnosed through the program and through symptomatic presentation.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia and also second in terms of mortality.
We have known from large randomised controlled trials that there is a potential to reduce mortality by 16-33%.
Breast cancer on the other hand, ranks lower in terms of mortality in Australia but has an established widespread screening program targeting women aged 50-69.
The current program has had a limited roll out to those aged 50, 55 and 65 and has only one screening with no re screening offered.
It is crucial that the government fully roles out the program with rescreening which could potentially save lives and ultimately save cost.
Participation is also a key to the success of a program and comprehensive communications campaign to maximise participation are necessary. The main reasons are likely to be the lack of awareness of the benefits of screening and reluctance or embarrassment to collect and send in a stool sample.
The study also suggests the apparent lack of uptake amongst the socially disadvantaged sections of the population. This may be due to lack of understanding, lack of interest a study showed that people from more economically deprived areas had less interest in pursuing the test) or access (not the case in our study).
Another consideration would be that these individuals are undergoing initial screening but then not pursuing follow up or have difficulty accessing colonoscopy.
Given the potential impact of the screening program and its potential to save lives, the government must consider the complete roll out of the screening program and support the resources needed to sutain it.”