Notes on the data: Screening programs - Bowel screening
Total males/ females/ persons who participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), 2018 and 2019
Policy context: Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, is one of the commonest forms of cancer in Australia, with around 80 Australians dying each week from the disease. Bowel cancer can be treated successfully if detected in its early stages, but currently fewer than 40 per cent of bowel cancers are detected early. Screening has been shown in randomised trials to reduce the incidence of and mortality from CRC  .
Since 2006, the Australian Government has initiated a limited CRC screening program,which aims to reduce the incidence and death from bowel cancer, by using a one-time immunochemical faecal occult blood test (FOBT) for people aged 50, 55 and 65 years. The second phase of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) commenced on 1 July 2008 and offered testing to people turning 50 years of age between January 2008 and December 2010, and those turning 55 or 65 between July 2008 and December 2010. With ongoing funding, the program expanded to include those turning 60 years of age from 2013 and those turning 70 years of age from 2015. In 2017-18 the program introduced biennial screening which upon full implementation (by 2020) will be offered to all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years, as per the recommendations by the National Health and Medical Research Council for two-yearly screening . About 5.5 million NBCSP screening tests have been completed since the program’s commencement in 2006, with about 280,000 participants having a diagnostic assessment to follow up a positive screening result .
In addition to the NBCSP, a variety of FOBT kits are available in Australia to screen for bowel cancer either available over the counter from pharmacies, through medical practitioners, or through other programs such as BowelScreen Australia, an education and screening initiative run by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and BowelCare, a community service project of various Rotary clubs and districts. The data contained within this report only represent participation within the NBCSP implemented by the Australian Government in partnership with the state and territory governments, not the other mentioned programs operating within the community.
- Towler B, Irwig L, Glasziou P, et al. A systematic review of the effects of screening for colorectal cancer using the faecal occult blood test, hemoccult. BMJ. 1998;317:559-65.
- Atkin WS, Edwards R, Kralj-Hans I, et al; UK Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Trial Investigators. Once-only flexible sigmoidoscopy screening in prevention of colorectal cancer: a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2010;375:1624-33.
- Department of Health (DOH). National Bowel Cancer Screening Program [Internet]. URL: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/about-the-program-1, accessed 18 March 2016.
- Australian Institute and Welfare. National Bowel Cancer Screening Program: monitoring report 2019. URL: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/840c72ff-a0e6-40cb-9b42-f68bfae112d2/aihw-can-125.pdf.aspx?inline=true, accessed 28 August 2019.
Notes: The outcome indicator presented is referred to as a 'positive test result'; a positive Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) (result indicates that blood has been found in the sample provided.
Where there are fewer than six events (invitees, participants) in an area, the data is suppressed to protect confidentiality. In addition, the current NBCSP data is presented over two calendar years - 2016 and 2017, hence it is not comparable with the previous release for 2014/15 (one financial year).
This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia licence.
Users of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) data must acknowledge the Department of Health as the original source of the data and include the following disclaimer:
- Formal publication and reporting of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) data is undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on behalf of the Department of Health. NBCSP data included in this report provided by the Department of Health is not part of the formal publication and reporting process for NBCSP data.
- Cautionary note about small numbers - Due to a larger degree of statistical fluctuation in small numbers, great care should be taken when assessing apparent differences involving small numbers and measures based on small numbers.
Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Quintiles within PHNs, and Remoteness Area
Numerator: Males/ females/ persons aged 50-74 years who participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019
Denominator: Males/ females/ persons aged 50-74 years who were invited to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019
Detail of analysis: Per cent
Source: AIHW analysis of the National Cancer Screening Register as at 31 December 2020 (NCSR RDE 23/2/2021).