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.
"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.
Of the patients diagnosed through the NBCSP, 63 per cent were from the least socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of Australia, while only 18 per cent were from the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.
The authors believe that more work needs to be done to encourage eligible people to undergo bowel cancer screening, especially those from disadvantaged areas.
"[The] impact of faecal occult blood test screening on bowel cancer mortality - is similar to the impact of mammographic screening on breast cancer mortality," Dr Ananda said.