Many Australians could be risking their health without even realising, following revelations of low participation rates in a free bowel cancer screening program.
Data from the NSW Cancer Registry has found about 60 per cent of people with bowel cancer discover it's already spread by the time they're diagnosed, reducing the chances of successful treatment.
Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW has urged older Australians to use their free, home-delivered test kit as soon as they receive it in the mail, as early detection is critical.
“Bowel cancer can be successfully treated in 90 per cent of cases if it is detected early so please don’t leave these kits in your drawer or wait until you are experiencing symptoms,” he said.
This year alone, it's projected that around 5,790 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in NSW and 1,850 people will die from the disease.
People who participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are almost twice as likely to have their cancer detected at the earliest stage, when it is most treatable.
For many people, by the time they experience symptoms of bowel cancer, the cancer has already spread to areas outside the bowel, when survival rates drop to 72 per cent.
For the one in five people whose cancer has spread to other organs like the liver or lungs, survival rates are as low as 15 per cent.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a free program which mails bowel screening kits to people aged 50 to 74 years every two years.
Since July 1 2015, the Cancer Institute NSW has invested more than $3.5 million on public campaigns for bowel cancer screening, and awarded more than $770,000 to local community and health organisations to promote bowel cancer screening awareness, participation and service redesign.