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How GPs can help combat Australia’s second biggest cancer killer

Australia’s first major national mass media campaign promoting bowel cancer screening launches.

Cancer Council is asking GPs to throw their support behind a new national campaign launching today, following new research that shows they are a key source of information for patients eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The new national Cancer Council campaign funded by a $10 million Federal Government grant will be the biggest campaign ever run in Australia to promote bowel cancer screening.

As well as mass media advertising, the campaign will be supported by outreach from Cancer Council to GPs and health professionals – after new Cancer Council research found that two in three eligible adults say they would talk to their doctor about bowel cancer screening. 

Professor Jon Emery, Medical Advisor, Cancer Council Australia said “At the moment only 4 in 10 eligible Australians participate in bowel cancer screening but GPs can play a key role in lifting screening rates.

“Increasing patient uptake can be as simple as doctors encouraging patients to do the home-test; explaining what is involved in the test and dispelling myths or sending letters or text messages to patients who are about to receive the test.

“The test is simple and clean and we know that after doing the test 77 percent of people repeat the test when next invited.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines recommend Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) screening every two years, starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74, for people who are at average risk, or slightly above, for bowel cancer (about 95-98% of the population).

Cancer Council research has shown that if screening participation can be increased to just 6 in 10, around 84,000 Australian lives could be saved in the next twenty years.

The new Cancer Council mass media campaign will use two TV advertisements, one which has already proven its lifesaving potential in Victoria.

New research shows that a 2017 Cancer Council Victoria campaign delivered over seven-weeks resulted in approximately 12,500 extra Victorians screening for bowel cancer during the campaign period, potentially saving more than 300 people from developing bowel cancer and more than 180 from dying of bowel cancer.

The new campaign will be used to run three separate seven-week bursts of mass media activity in 2019. Tailored campaign materials are also being developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, as well as in Greek, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Mandarin languages.

The Australian Government commenced a phased-in roll-out of Australia’s free screening program in 2006, with the final two age groups (52 and 56-year olds) added to the program for the first time this year. This means in 2019, people aged 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74 will be sent the free test in the mail.

For more information about the bowel screening campaign visit



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