Image of home test kit

How GPs can help combat Australia’s second biggest cancer killer

In Central Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by PHN Communications

Cancer Council is asking GPs to support a new national campaign, following research that shows they are a key source of information for patients eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The campaign, funded by a $10 million Australian Government grant, will be the biggest campaign run in Australia to promote bowel cancer screening.

As well as mass media advertising, the campaign will be supported by outreach from Cancer Council to GPs and health professionals – after new Cancer Council research found that two in three eligible adults say they would talk to their doctor about bowel cancer screening.

Cancer Council Australia Medical Advisor Professor Jon Emery said only four in 10 eligible Australians participated in bowel cancer screening but GPs could play a key role in lifting screening rates.

“Increasing patient uptake can be as simple as doctors encouraging patients to do the home test; explaining what is involved in the test and dispelling myths or sending letters or text messages to patients who are about to receive the test.

“The test is simple and clean and we know that after doing the test 77% of people repeat the test when next invited.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines recommend Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) screening every two years, starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74, for people who are at average risk, or slightly above, for bowel cancer (about 95-98% of the population).

Cancer Council research has shown that if screening participation can be increased to just six in 10, around 84,000 Australian lives could be saved in the next 20 years.

The new campaign will be used to run three separate seven-week bursts of mass media activity in 2019. Tailored campaign materials are also being developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as in Greek, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Mandarin languages.