News

Streamlined bowel cancer register to commence


Morgan Liotta


6/11/2019 1:40:03 PM

Support for bowel cancer screening is set to increase through amalgamation with the National Cancer Screening Register.

Bowel cancer home screening kit
The bowel cancer home screening kits will be sent to all eligible Australians aged 50–74 from 2020.

From 18 November, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) will merge with the National Cancer Screening Register (National Register).
 
The merger is designed to provide a single national record for participants of the NBCSP and the National Cervical Screening Program.
 
The NBCSP was launched in 2006 as a population-based screening program that aims for early detection and prevention of bowel cancer, and a reduction in illness and death each year from the disease. The free immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) kits are sent to eligible people aged 50–74 and then to a contracted pathology laboratory for analysis.
 
Slightly more than 41% of the 4.1 million people invited in 2016–17 participated in the NBCSP, with rates the highest for people in the 70–74 age group across all jurisdictions. Overall, national screening has shown to have better survival rates for bowel, breast and cervical cancers.
 
The National Register will support the NBCSP by inviting and reminding eligible people to participate, and distributing iFOBT kits. Once the screening data is collated, the National Register will provide access to the Participant Follow-Up Function (PFUF) to facilitate support and follow up of positive results.
 
Information will also be provided to healthcare providers, who are encouraged to ensure eligible participants engage with the screening program to boost numbers nationwide.
 
Professor Jon Emery told newsGP earlier this year that this encouragement is an important part of the GP–patient relationship, particularly for those at risk of bowel cancer.
 
‘Just encouraging our patients to do what is actually a simple test would really have a major impact on reducing the burden of bowel cancer in this country … even a 10% increase in participation would have a large impact on early detection of bowel cancer and reduction of bowel cancer deaths,’ he said.
 
‘While our bowel cancer survival rates are improving – and that’s because of improvements in treatment – the really big change would be if we could get higher rates of participation in the screening program.’
 
From 2020, the NBCSP will invite all eligible Australians aged 50–74 – around four million people per year – to screen every two years. According to the NBCSP, this could significantly reduce the burden of bowel cancer and potentially save up to 500 lives annually.
 
Additional functionality of the merged screening programs will be implemented in stages from early 2020, including:

  • an online portal which will enable healthcare providers to access patient information and submit data electronically to the NBCSP
  • integration with primary care Practice Management Software systems
  • integration with whole-of-government services such as My Health Record to enable greater self-service options for people to manage their participation in both programs.
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