New research by Cancer Council NSW has estimated the benefits, harms and cost-effectiveness of Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program between 2015 and 2040. The researchers also estimated the impact that improved participation rates could have on bowel cancer rates and deaths.
The study was published in The Lancet Public Health.
Currently, only around 40 per cent of those who are eligible for bowel screening participate in the program. At this current level of participation, the program is expected to prevent 92,200 cancer cases and 59,000 deaths between now and 2040.
“Our study found that even at its current participation rate, the program will have a major impact on bowel cancer in the Australian population – however, we could avert an additional 24,300 cases and 16,800 deaths if participation increased to 50 per cent, or an additional 37,300 cases and 24,800 deaths if participation increased to 60 per cent,” said Professor Karen Canfell, Director of Research at Cancer Council NSW and Chair, Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee at Cancer Council Australia.
“This means that if just 20 per cent more Australians participated in the program, 83,800 lives could be saved between now and 2040.”
The study also examined the cost-effectiveness of the program – and found that it was highly cost-effective.
“Because of the high burden of disease for bowel cancer and the very high costs of treating this disease, the program is predicted to start resulting in cost savings overall, within a decade of full roll-out,” Prof Canfell added.
Cancer Council strongly encourages Australians aged 50-74 years to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program when they are sent the test kit.
“Our study has shown that even a modest increase in participation in the program will have an enormous impact on the burden of disease over the next 25 years – so don’t be embarrassed” said Prof. Canfell.
“A simple stool check could save your life”.