This Seniors Week, we want the message out there that cancer screening saves lives.
Recent data projections released by Cancer Institute NSW has found that by the end of the year, the Hawkesbury will have the highest rate of bowel cancer in the Sydney region. If found early, 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated. Yet, bowel cancer screening rates remain low when compared to other cancers, despite the introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) which offers a free ‘at home’ screening kit to eligible Australians aged 50 - 74 years old.
Improving our region's cancer screening participation is a key priority for us, as we know that early detection and diagnosis makes a huge difference to patient survival rates. Through our Cancer Screening Clinical Audit & Quality Improvement in General Practice Program, we have been working with healthcare providers to help improve cancer screening rates within our region.
In the Hawkesbury, we have been working closely with several general practices to increase their patients’ bowel screening rates, with some promising results. We have supported these practices by helping them set up systems and processes to better identify patients needing screening, and by encouraging GPs and patients to have open conversations about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, which can be embarrassing to talk about.
In the last 9 months, patient screening rates from the practices working with us have improved across both the never-screened and the under-screened patient groups. Never-screened eligible men improved by 3%, while women in the same group improved by 4%. Under-screened (or late screened) eligible men improved by 4% while women improved by 5%.
Statistics show that cancer screening rates for men in our region remain lower than woman. As a result, we have commissioned Men's Health Services to run a number of free consumer “Get in Early” men’s health education sessions in the Hawkesbury and Penrith areas, between April and June, focusing on bowel cancer screening. In addition, we have commissioned a Cancer Screening and Men's Health GP workshop in the Blue Mountains in May, to provide some practical approaches to engaging men more actively in maintaining their own health and wellbeing.
Regular screening saves lives. While some people may find it embarrassing, bowel cancer is a topic that should be discussed with your doctor, especially when you are over 50 years of age.
Eligible Australians should receive their first free bowel screening Test Kit in the mail around their 50th Birthday. The Test Kits are easy to use and come with detailed instructions. To request a Test Kit to be mailed to you, call the NBCSP Information Line on 1800 118 868 or go to www.cancerscreening.gov.au/bowel
Cancer in Sydney 2018 data projections - Cancer Institute NSW
Cancer Screening in the NBMPHN