GPs urged to remind patients to put breast, bowel and cervical screening at the top of their to-do list

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Cancer Council and the Australian Government are encouraging doctors to talk to their patients about bowel, cervical and breast screening, as a new campaign launches urging Australians to tick screening of their to-do list.

The national campaign Cancer Screening Saves Lives launched this week to help combat the impact of COVID 19 on the number of Australians participating in national cancer screening programs and visiting their GPs for regular health checks.

The campaign is funded as a $2.2 million Commonwealth Government initiative.

Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO Cancer Council Australia explained GPs and health professionals play an important role in alleviating patients concerns during COVID-19.

“Since COVID-19 began, we have heard many stories of declines in GP visits, hospital admissions and cancer diagnoses. Screening can either prevent cancer or lead to early detection and more effective treatment, so participation is critical.

“We are urging healthcare providers to take any opportunity they can to bring up the three national screening programs with their patients. Whether that is through reminding patients during appointments about the importance of bowel, breast and cervical screening, emails to patient databases, or by other means, healthcare professionals can play an important role in encouraging Australians to reprioritise cancer screening.

“We understand COVID-19 has impacted Australians in lots of different ways. Some people will have deprioritised their general health check-ups during a time that has been very stressful and required lots of change. It is important that these people know that now is the time to stop putting off cancer screening.

“Some patients need reassurance that attending appointments is safe and does not place a burden on health care professionals at this difficult time. Reassuring patients that screening providers and GP clinics are open, with measures in place to protect clients and staff can help to improve participation, save lives and reduce the load on the health care system into the future.

“Early diagnosis is crucial to survival and we want to avoid seeing an influx of patients diagnosed at a later stage because they avoided screening.”

The integrated campaign, which includes radio, digital and social media advertising, will run over eight weeks from today. Tailored materials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and for Greek, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese speaking communities are also being developed and will be accessible for medical practitioners to give to their patients.

Specific campaign materials will also be developed for GPs and other health care workers. The campaign will initially focus on the National Cervical Screening Program and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, with materials for the BreastScreen Australia program to follow.

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About the screening programs:

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program:

Australians aged 50-74 are sent iFOBT kits to the address listed on their Medicare card every two years. The test detects traces of blood in the stool which can be a sign of cancerous or pre cancerous lesions.

National Cervical Screening Program

The new Cervical Screening Test, introduced in December 2017, detects HPV. Women who have a negative result are now only required to screen every five years. The program is open to all women and people with a cervix who are aged 25-74 and have ever been sexually active.

Women aged 25-74 that have not had a cervical screening test since December 2017 are now overdue and should be reminded to make an appointment to have the new cervical screening test.

Women aged 30 years or older who have not been screened for four years or longer are eligible for HPV screening on a self-collected sample. Self‑collection is a safe and effective option for cervical screening.

BreastScreen Australia

Women aged 50-74 are invited via their local BreastScreen provider when they are due.

After brief closures, BreastScreen services have reopened and extra measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, such as low contact check-ins, physical distancing, and hand sanitiser.

Women who have received an invitation should call and book an appointment. If they have misplaced or thrown out their invitation, they can still contact their local BreastScreen provider on 13 20 50.


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ONA Editor

The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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