Bowel screening campaign would save 4330 lives: Cancer Council

GI cancer

By Michael Woodhead

9 Dec 2019

Promoting the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program through a national awareness campaign could prompt over a million Australians to participate and save 4,330 lives over the next 40 years, according to new estimates.

A modelling study conducted by Cancer Council NSW also shows that a four-year national campaign to promote participation in the NBCSP would prevent 8,100 bowel cancer cases.

Its estimates are based on extrapolating the results seen with a seven-week media awareness campaign for bowel cancer screening run in Victoria in 2017, which resulted in a 1.31-fold increase in participation for 11 weeks.

The campaign in Victoria is expected to prevent 319 colorectal cancer cases and 183 deaths over the following 40 years. If the same campaign is scaled up and run nationally three times a year for the next four years, it is estimated to prevent 8,100 colorectal cancer cases and 4,330 deaths, according to the modelling published in the journal Public Health.

Such a campaign would cost $40 million but would be highly cost effective, at AUD$2470/life-year saved and having a $15.80 return on each dollar invested, the researchers estimated.

They said particular emphasis should be given to promoting screening participation of people at the younger end of the eligibility range (50-54), where participation rates were currently low, and because of recent evidence showing that colorectal cancer is rising younger age groups.

They also noted that Federal government had recently awarded a grant of AUD$10 million to improve NBCSP participation through a national mass-media campaign for one year.

Anita Dessaix, Chair, Public Health Committee, Cancer Council Australia, said that the Federal Government should be applauded for the funding but stressed that continued investment was crucial.

“This first campaign was a fantastic landmark investment from the Government and we know from other state-based campaigns that we can normalise bowel cancer screening through Government-funded advertising. By extending the current campaign by another three years would save even more lives and prevent even more cancer cases,” she said.

“There is a clear case for continued Government investment, with this investment also being highly cost effective.”

Ms Dessaix said it was encouraging to see the latest AIHW data showing a small increase in the number of Australians participating in bowel cancer screening – to 42% – and encouraged more eligible people to do the same.

“The message to the Australian public is simple – if you are aged 50 – 74 do the free test when it’s sent to you in the mail. It could save your life. We need to lift participation rates well beyond the current rate.”

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