By Belinda Merhab
(Australian Associated Press)
It’s a lifesaving test that could slash bowel cancer rates in Australia but most people are throwing it in the bin.
More than two million people aged between 50 and 74 will receive a free bowel cancer screening kit in 2016 to complete at home.
But based on existing participation rates, more than 60 per cent will throw it away.
Health Minister Sussan Ley will launch a new Gift for Living campaign on Wednesday urging Australians to take advantage of the lifesaving test.
“The missing element here is improved participation,” Ms Ley said.
“Imagine how many more lives we can improve or save if that figure was much higher?”
Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and is also the most expensive cancer to treat in hospital.
But if detected early, about nine out of 10 cases can be successfully treated.
“When you receive your screening kit I would just say to those six out of 10 men or women who throw it away, remember it is a Gift for Living and that life might just be yours,” Ms Ley said.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has been around for a decade now and has screened more than two-and-a-half million Australians.
Almost 4000 were found to have suspected or confirmed cancers and more than 12,000 have been diagnosed with types of polyps prone to becoming cancerous.
The coalition announced in the 2014/15 budget it would introduce two-yearly screening for all Australians aged 50 to 74 by 2019, saving an estimated 300 to 500 lives every year.