The introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) has resulted in earlier detection of cases of colorectal cancer, which is expected to increase survival rates, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The NBCSP was launched in May 2006 and currently offers faecal occult blood testing to all Australians aged 50, 55 or 65 years of age.
Dr Sumitra Ananda, Medical Oncology Fellow at Royal Melbourne Hospital, and her coauthors reviewed data on colorectal cancer cases diagnosed between May 2006 and June 2008 from a prospective database used at 19 Australian hospitals.
Of the 1628 cases identified, 1268 had information on the test status as part of the NBCSP.
"We found that cancers diagnosed through the NBCSP were detected at a much earlier stage," Dr Ananda said.
The data showed that 40 per cent of NBCSP-diagnosed cases were detected during the first stage of cancer, compared with 14 per cent of symptomatic cases.
The study authors anticipate that early detection associated with the screening program will likely lead to an increase in colorectal cancer survival for these patients.
The authors believe that more work needs to be done to encourage eligible people to undergo bowel cancer screening, especially those from disadvantaged areas.