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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Bowel Cancer Australia advocacy shapes government action on younger age screening

Health Industry Hub | May 16, 2024 |

Bowel Cancer Australia celebrated a significant milestone in its six-year campaign as the Australian Government, in the Federal Budget announcement, has lowered the eligibility age for bowel cancer screening from 50 to 45.

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer and the second biggest cancer killer in Australia. It claims the lives of 5,350 Australians every year (103 a week), including 315 people under the age of 50.

Effective July 1, 2024, an additional 1.6 million Australians aged 45-49 will be eligible to access screening tests through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Once individuals in this age bracket opt into the program, they will receive a screening test every two years.

The decision to lower the screening age comes in response to concerning trends: over the past thirty years, there has been a steady increase in bowel cancer rates among individuals under the age of 50, not only in Australia but globally as well. Shockingly, 1,716 Australians are diagnosed with early-onset bowel cancer annually, with those aged 40-49 constituting 56% of new cases and 64% of deaths among individuals diagnosed under 50.

Julien Wiggins, CEO of Bowel Cancer Australia, stated “We have been advocating tirelessly for the lowering of the screening age in response to the increasing rates of bowel cancer in younger people.”

This Budget announcement aligns with updated clinical practice guidelines endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in October 2023. These guidelines recommend lowering the start age for bowel cancer screening and also propose that individuals aged 40-44 can request screening through their healthcare professional even before receiving their first invitation from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Wiggins extended thanks to the dedicated advocates and members of the Parliamentary Friends of Bowel Cancer for their unwavering support throughout the campaign.

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