The Australian government seems embarrassed over the faulty results that were provided to many of those who participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
Early detection by screening remains the best way to fight bowel cancer, and hence the government had thought up the program to screen all 50, 55 and 65-year-olds in Australia. As many as 475,000 persons took part in the screening.
But, as it turned out, the level of positive results in tests performed since December 1 was lower than expected.
The Health Department has reviewed the reliability of the test kits under certain conditions.
108,000 people have undertaken tests since this time and have returned a negative result and will be asked to repeat the test with a new kit. The Department will write to all those who received the kits, although many have not yet used the test and returned the kits for assessment.
It is expected it will take no longer than two weeks to contact all affected people. New test kits will then be issued as they become available in coming weeks.
People who have used the screening kit and have received a positive result are not affected. Anyone with a positive result should, if they have not already done so, see their doctor to arrange further investigation.
Every one of the 475,000 participants will be individually contacted to advise them of the issue, and each will also be provided with a new, reliable, test as soon as possible, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said in a statement.
"My Department has commenced urgent discussions with the suppliers of the kits, Dorevitch Pathology, to verify and eliminate the cause of the problem," she added.
The test kits are manufactured by Japan-based Fujirebio Diagnostics, imported into Australia by Siemens Medical Healthcare Diagnostics, and supplied to the Department by Dorevitch Pathology. Preliminary investigations indicate that recent changes to the kit contents by Fujirebio may be the cause of the test result discrepancies.
"While people are waiting for retesting, they should contact their doctor if they are concerned or are experiencing any of the following symptoms - bleeding from the rectum, signs of blood in faeces, notable change in the frequency and consistency of bowel movements, abdominal pain, or unexpected tiredness," the Health department said.
"I am awaiting advice on any legal or financial recourse available to the Government as a result of this investigation and re-testing process. The Government will be seeking to recoup any cost incurred by the taxpayer as a result of this process," Minister Nicola Robinson clarified.