Why GPs are crucial to improving bowel cancer screening rates

Matt Woodley

15/08/2022 9:24:55 PM

SPONSORED: Clinicians are being encouraged to talk to patients about bowel screening as part of Cancer Council’s Get2it campaign.

GP talking to a patient with a bowel testing kit.
GPs play an important role in lifting participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Screening rates for Australia’s second biggest cancer killer currently sit at just 43.5%, despite the fact that up to 90% of these deaths are preventable with early detection.
To lift participation rates – and save lives – Cancer Council and the Australian Government Department of Health have launched a new awareness campaign encouraging Australians aged 50–74 to ‘Get2it’ and take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) when they receive their free test kit in the mail. 
But even though most GPs are already well-versed on the benefits of screening, Cancer Council CEO Professor Tanya Buchanan told newsGP they still need to be aware of the campaign to help maximise its effectiveness.
‘GPs are a trusted authority when it comes to health advice, so when they speak, people listen,’ she said.
‘Aside from starting the conversation around bowel screening, they can also identify any potential barriers an unscreened patient is facing, ease any concerns, and order replacement test kits when necessary.
‘Patients are also likely to have more questions than usual about the program due to our promotional activity, which is why we’re encouraging all GPs to be active participants in the campaign.’

A new report from the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer has summarised available research and identified common barriers which prevent the 36% of eligible people who don’t participate in bowel screening, from doing so – and how public health professionals can help patients overcome these barriers.
There were three distinct groups of lapsed or non-screeners: 

  • Intenders (27%) who understand the importance of screening but live busy lives and can’t find the time to do the test
  • Refusers (6%) who avoid bowel screening altogether, believing it’s unhygienic, complex or they fear a positive test result
  • Faecal occult blood test (FOBT) Naïve (3%) who are not aware of the NBCSP or the need to screen
 These insights underpin the new campaign, which includes resources specifically for health professionals to reinforce and remind ‘intenders’ of the importance and urgency of screening, reassure and motivate those who refuse to participate (refusers) to do so, and educate and build trust amongst those who don’t understand the NBCSP (FOBT Naïve).

The campaign also has the support of new Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, who points out that increasing the NBCSP participation rate to 60% would save around 84,000 lives by 2040.
‘We are asking Australians aged 50–74 to make time to look after their health by doing their free bowel screening test when it arrives in the mail,’ he said.
GPs can re-order a kit on behalf of their patient via the Healthcare Provider Portal. Information on how to access this can be found on the via the National Cancer Screening Register website.
GPs can find more information on the NBCSP, which has been specifically tailored for health practitioners, on the Cancer Council website.
Log in below to join the conversation.

bowel cancer Cancer Council National Bowel Cancer Screening Program NBCSP screening

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?



Login to comment

Dr Daniel Thomas Byrne   14/09/2022 7:28:30 AM

…..or GPs could have the kits in their rooms and hand them to patients. Wait no sorry - not allowed.