New plan hopes to save 500 lives from bowel cancer yearly

AUSTRALIANS most at risk of bowel cancer will have access to more frequent screening under a new initiative launched at the weekend aimed at saving up to 500 lives each year.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said on Sunday the government would invest an additional $95.9 million to ensure Australians aged between 50 and 74 would receive a free, at home bowel cancer screening kit every two years.

She said previously people were only sent screening kits every five years between the age of 50 and 65 with nothing sent to those aged between 66 and 74.

"Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia with approximately 80 Australians dying each week," she said.

"However, unfortunately there is still quite a stigma with bowel cancer screening and that is something this campaign is designed to address.

"The kit is simple and discreet to use in the privacy of your own home.

"We need more people completing their testing kits as bowel cancer often has no symptoms and early detection saves lives."

Ms Ley said Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

She said it was estimated that, once fully implemented, the programme will invite about 4 million Australians to screen each year and could detect approximately 3500 potential bowel cancers each year.

"The risk of bowel cancer increases from the age of 50, however if detected early and managed nine-out-of-10 cases can be successfully treated," she said.

"I encourage everyone to complete and return their bowel cancer screening kit when they receive it as the more Australians that are screened, the more lives will be saved."