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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin

National bowel cancer screening program



The National bowel cancer screening program began as a pilot program in November 2002 to test the effectiveness of bowel cancer screening in Australia using faecal occult blood tests (FOBT). The pilot program involved men and women from selected states and concluded in June 2004. An evaluation of the pilot program revealed it was an acceptable, feasible, and cost-effective screening method for bowel cancer.

Essentially the program invites persons at higher risk of developing bowel cancer to participate in bowel cancer screening by mailing the FOBT to the individual's home. Participation in the program is voluntary and no cost is involved in completing the FOBT. The completed tests are forwarded to a pathology laboratory and participants with positive screening tests are notified and encouraged to discuss the result with their doctor where further diagnostic investigation usually follows.

The second phase of the program commenced in July 2008 and offered screening to persons turning 50 years of age between January 2008 and December 2010. Individuals turning 55 or 65 between July 2008 and December 2010 were also invited to participate.

From 2013, the program will be expanded to include Australians turning 60 years of age, and from 2015 those turning 70 years of age. The program will be further expanded in 2017-18. When fully implemented, all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years will be offered free screening every two years, consistent with the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract


National bowel cancer screening program
Ph: 1800 118 868

Evaluated publications

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (2009)

National bowel cancer screening program: annual monitoring report 2009.

Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Last updated: 7 February 2014
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