Family doctors play 'vital role' for bowel cancer screening
During Family Doctor Week 2014, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging people to work with their family doctors to prevent bowel cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia.
AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said the AMA is supporting the Cancer Council Australia to promote screening of bowel cancer.
"Family doctors play a vital role in promoting bowel cancer awareness in the community, and in alerting their patients to the warning signs," A/Prof Owler said.
"Seventy-five Australians are killed every week by bowel cancer, yet more than 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be cured if detected early.
"Screening is an important part of preventing and curing bowel cancer.
"The AMA is working with the Cancer Council to encourage GPs to help promote the Council's new bowel cancer screening campaign.
"The campaign promotes the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which provides Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 with a free faecal occult blood test in the mail.
"By 2020, all Australians aged 50-74 will receive the test every two years."
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said patients who are eligible to participate in the program should be encouraged to do so through their GP.
"The faecal occult blood test picks up signs of cancer early, when it is much more likely to be prevented or cured," Prof Olver said.
"Even with the current low participation rate, the program is expected to save 70,000 lives over the next 40 years. By boosting participation, thousands more lives will be saved."
A/Prof Owler said that Family Doctor Week 2014 provides a great opportunity to remind people that bowel cancer screening can save lives.
The doctor-patient relationship
"Family Doctor Week is all about promoting the doctor/patient relationship and spreading preventive health messages and information," A/Prof Owler said.
"People should discuss their risk factors with their family doctor, who can then develop a targeted preventive health screening program for them.
"Lots of people die needlessly of bowel cancer. It's important that older Australians, especially, take the test, which is free.
"Patients with questions, concerns or symptoms should speak to their family doctor.
"A simple test could be a life saver."
The Federal Government has budgeted for an additional $95.9 million over four years to provide all Australians aged 50 to 74 years with biennial bowel cancer screening by 2019-20. This is in line with National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines.
The money to continue and finalise the program has predominantly come from the Department of Health and Treasury, with Veterans' Affairs and Human Services also contributing.