Top 3 questions – Bowel cancer screening program and GP involvement with Professor Michael Kidd

Hear from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd on the bowel cancer screening program and GP involvement.


Hello. My name is Michael Kidd. I'm a general practitioner and also Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government, Department of Health.

This month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and it's a great opportunity for Australia's general practitioners and general practice nurses to take some time to talk with each of our patients about the risk of bowel cancer and especially about the importance of screening for bowel cancer. As you know, Australia has a National Bowel Cancer Screening Program which involves people aged between 50 and 74 years being sent every two years, a bowel cancer screening kit in the mail. The instructions come with the kit and the... your patients are asked to collect two specimens, small specimens of faeces from two separate bowel actions and to put these in the tubes provided and post them back in the envelope provided with the test kit.

The test, of course, is testing for the presence of microscopic amounts of blood in the stool. Unfortunately at the moment, we've only got an uptake of about 44% of people who are sent bowel cancer test screening kits, sending them back with the specimens. So we're seeking your support to increase the number of people who are doing the testing and sending the kits back when they receive them by post at home. In 2019 we had a program working with Australia's general practitioners and practice managers to raise awareness of bowel cancer screening among your patients. This was incredibly successful. In 2019 we saw an additional 93,000 people send back their bowel cancer testing kits. And what this means over time is that we'll have successfully diagnosed and treated an additional 856 cases of bowel cancer. 469 lives will have been saved. And more than $46 million of spending in our health care services will have been saved as a result of those 93,000 extra people sending back their bowel cancer screening kits. So I strongly encourage you to urge your patients aged between 50 and 74 when they receive a bowel cancer screening kit to complete it and send it back so that they can be screened and if necessary, go on and have further testing to either diagnose or exclude the presence of bowel cancer.

Thank you for the great work that you're doing supporting your patients in so many ways. This is another really practical way that we can all be involved in helping to save lives among our patients and the people in the communities where we work. Thanks, everyone.

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Top 3 questions: 

  • Why is bowel cancer screening important? 
  • What are the common signs and symptoms of bowel cancer? 
  • What should you do if you have a family history of bowel cancer?
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