New Data Shows Live Saving Cancer Screening Participation at Risk during COVID

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Cancer Council has issued a call for Australians to act now to get up to date with their bowel, breast and cervical screening following data that shows fewer Australians are screening in 2020 than previous years.

The report, Cancer Screening and COVID-19 in Australia, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, has shown that between January to June 2020 there was 144,982 fewer mammograms and 443,935 fewer cervical screening tests have been completed, and from January to July 144,379 fewer bowel screening tests returned, compared with previous years.*

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said, “The Australian Government anticipated a drop in screening in the first half of 2020, and invested in a $2.2 million Cancer Screening Saves Lives campaign, delivered by Cancer Council, to combat this drop and encourage more people to screen. It is simple: cancer screening saves lives. I urge all eligible Australians to make sure they get screened”.

Megan Varlow, Acting CEO of Cancer Council Australia, explained some of the possible reasons for the decline.

“COVID-19 impacted participation in cancer screening in different ways. BreastScreen Australia services temporarily paused in the first stages of the COVID-19 lockdown which saw participation fall significantly, particularly during April. As services have now resumed, we are encouraging anyone who has received an invitation from BreastScreen to make sure they make a booking with their local BreastScreen service.

“The national cervical screening program also saw a decline and while this was expected due to the program transitioning from the two-yearly Pap smear to the five-yearly cervical screening test, the reductions during the COVID-19 lockdown are more than we would have expected. This is likely a result of fewer people attending face-to-face appointments with their GP, and therefore fewer cervical screening tests being completed.

“This decline is very concerning as it means there is a sizable portion of women who are now overdue for screening.”

Ms Varlow explained that we have had fewer bowel screening kits returned so far in 2020 than during the same January – July period last year.

“From January to July 2020, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has sent over 2.1 million kits to Australians, yet fewer than 700,000 have been returned.

“Currently four in 10 Australians complete their free test after they receive it in the mail. With many of us spending more time than ever at home, if you’ve received a free bowel test, now is the time to complete it.

“We know that COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and some of us may have neglected our regular health checks.

“We are urging Australians to stop putting off any health checks. If you are due or have been invited to participate in the breast, bowel or cervical screening programs, get it done and tick cancer screening off your to do list.”

Screening aims to detect cancers early, either by detecting any early precancerous signs (to stop the cancer developing in the first place) or by detecting cancers when they are small (and treatment options and survival prospects are better). This leads to improved survival for people who participate in screening.

The Screening Saves Lives Campaign – including radio, digital and social media advertising will run throughout Spring. Tailored materials for GPs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and for Greek, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese speaking communities are also part of the campaign.


Sourcewww.cancer.org.au

AIHW report Cancer screening and COVID-19 in Australia (Part 1)

Total participation in BreastScreen January – June 2020

State 2018 2020
NSW 153,371 104,734
Vic 116,450 76,080
WA 52,311 40,367
QLD 100,919 77,424
SA 41,403 25,935
Tas 14,515 10,239
ACT 7,587 7,288
NT 2,469 1,976
Australia 489,025 344,043

 

Total participation in National Cervical Screening Program January – June 2020

State 2019 2020
NSW 242,760 113,238
Vic 216,079 91,607
WA 85019 38,756
QLD 159,848 72,486
SA 58458 24,343
Tas 16,577 7,179
ACT 14,458 6,816
NT 7062 4,256
Australia 807,553 363,618

* States and territories do not sum to Australia due to screening tests for which the state or territory is unknown

* These data are sourced from a live database, which is updated over time, with later data supply likely to have a greater level of completeness. This means that the data in this report are considered preliminary and may differ from data are sourced at a different time

Total participation in National Bowel Cancer Screening Program January – July 2020

State 2019 invitations 2019 kits returned 2020 invitations 2020 kits returned
NSW 600,228 239,501 736,462 234,240
Vic 465,834 226,234 566,516 191,790
WA 203891 90,292 199,575 56,366
QLD 399,695 155,791 404,012 109,541
SA 140,274 72,543 152,022 56,460
Tas 46,442 23,380 54,404 18902
ACT 27,497 12,403 35,890 12,202
NT 15,779 5,359 29,061 1,554
Australia 1,899,641 825,532 2,177,945 681,152

* States and territories do not sum to Australia due to screening tests for which the state or territory is unknown

* These data are sourced from a live database, which is updated over time, with later data supply likely to have a greater level of completeness. This means that the data in this report are considered preliminary and may differ from data are sourced at a different time.

* different age groups were eligible in 2019 and 2020, the numbers are not directly comparable.

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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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