I still have my test kit sitting in the bathroom waiting to be used. The government sent it to me. Then they sent me a reminder to actually use it.
The latest phase of the National Bowel Cancer Screening program has found that almost 80 per cent of bowel cancers detected were removed in the early stages.
The program received valid tests from around 800,000 participants with an increased showing from the 55 to 66 year old age group.
Of those, 60,000 were required to have further investigation and assessment with at least 71 per cent having a colonoscopy.
Chris Sturrock from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says early screening not only finds cancers but also pre-cancerous changes.
"So sometimes things could be removed that could potentially become cancers before they become cancers," he said.
"Also that when cancers are found, those 80 per cent were found in the early stages and we know cancers found early respond better to treatment."
The results from the study also found that Indigenous, regional and lower socio-economic groups are less likely to have follow-up investigations.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people who spoke a language other than English at home, or low socio-economic groups actually recorded more need for follow up but less follow up attended," Mr Sturrock said.
Women were also more likely than men to participate in the program, even though men are more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The head of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ian Olver, said the results emphasise the program's life-saving potential.
"Bowel cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat if found early, yet it is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer because not enough cases are detected at early-stage," he said in a statement.
"Many of the 4,000 precancerous polyps and early-stage cancers picked up by the program over the reporting period could have developed into advanced bowel cancer and caused death."
Just 40 per cent of the people invited to participate in the program actually did - something professor Olver says reflects underinvestment in the program.
"If the screening program had been more widely available, the government might have also invested in promoting it, to encourage greater participation," he said.
"Imagine how many more lives we could save if the program was extended beyond the three age groups that are currently eligible, and run continuously."
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