PDF printable version of Health Professionals Letter (PDF 69 KB)
As you know, survival rates for bowel cancer are significantly improved when the disease is detected and treated early. International randomised controlled trials have shown that screening with faecal occult blood tests (FOBTs) significantly reduces mortality from bowel cancer. FOBTs form the basis of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program which began in 2006. You may be interested to know that to date, suspected cancer or polyps were found in 60% of Program participants with a positive FOBT result who were further investigated by colonoscopy. These results indicate that the Program is achieving its primary objective of early detection of bowel cancer in asymptomatic people.
The Government recently announced that from 1 July 2008, people across Australia turning 50, 55 or 65 years of age between January 2008 and December 2010 will be invited to complete a FOBT in the privacy of their own home and mail it to a central pathology laboratory for analysis. Results will be mailed to the participant and, where the participant has nominated one, their GP or medical practice. If a participant receives a positive FOBT, they are advised to see a GP so that they can be referred for colonoscopy or other tests if necessary. It is anticipated that around 2.5 million people will be invited to participate in the Program during this phase.
When referring your patient for further tests, please attach a Program sticker (provided with this letter) to the referral. This sticker will identify your patient as a Program participant.
For your patients in the Program, you are asked to notify the Register of their progress in the screening pathway by completing and forwarding program reporting forms. These forms are available:
on the screening website; or
in hardcopy via the Information Line on 1800 118 868.
You have the option of submitting the forms:
online via the screening website;
free faxing them to 1800 115 062; or
mailing them to the NBCSP Register, Reply Paid 83061, Hobart TAS 7001.
The collection of information through the Register is imperative to ensure adequate follow-up of all Program participants. An information payment will apply to the provision of information to the Register. In order to receive this payment, you must complete all sections of the program reporting form as well as a Payment Account Details for Service Provider form and lodge the form with the Register by free fax or mail. A person with a positive FOBT is 12 to 40 times more likely to have colorectal cancer than a person with a negative test. It is therefore essential that any positive FOBT is appropriately investigated. Colonoscopy is preferred as it allows for biopsy and removal of adenomas. To ensure that all Program participants with a positive FOBT result receive adequate follow up, Program Coordinators will be recruited in each state and territory. A Program Coordinator may contact you and your patients with a positive FOBT result to assist and encourage progression through the screening pathway.
Please note that rescreening is not being offered in this phase of the Program. It is important that the screening program be introduced slowly to ensure that health services, such as colonoscopy services, are able to meet any increased demand. That is why, during this phase of the Program, only those people turning 50, 55 or 65 years of age between January 2008 and December 2010 are being invited to screen. This commitment is an important step towards screening all people aged 50 years and above every two years.
For more detailed information on the evidence for screening please see the National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer. These are available at the NHMRC website.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your involvement to date in the Program. Support from health professionals has been integral to the success of the Program so far, and I strongly encourage you to continue to support this important national initiative designed to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with bowel cancer. If you would like further information on the Program, please visit the screening website.
Professor John Horvath AO
Chief Medical Officer
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line: 1800 118 868
Page last reviewed August 2014