Bowel cancer often has no symptoms. But, if found at an early stage, treatment is more likely to cure the disease. The best way to find bowel cancer early, is for eligible Australians without symptoms to participate in National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which sends a simple home test-kit (immunochemical faecal occult blood test - iFOBT) to the mailing address of those aged 50 to 74, every two years.
The iFOBT can detect tiny amounts of blood in poo that can be a sign of bowel cancer. If a patient has a "positive" test result, they will be encouraged to visit their GP where further follow-up investigations can be sought i.e., colonoscopy. Invitees' names are drawn from either the Medicare or Department of Veterans' Affairs enrolment records.
You can find out more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program by visiting www.cancerscreening.gov.au/bowel or calling the Infoline on 1800 627 701. Health professionals can now order or encourage their patients to order a free replacement kit from the NCSR Contact Us page - only the patient's Medicare or Department of Veterans Affairs number is needed to do so. Health professionals can also log in to the Health Care Provider Portal (using their PRODA account) to access their patients' bowel screening records and to order a new kit.
Australia has one the world's lowest rates of cervical cancer mortality, largely due our effectiveness cervical cancer screening program. In December 2017, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) changed from two yearly Pap smears to five yearly Cervical Screening Tests for women aged 25-74. This was based on an independent review by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), which concluded that an HPV test every five years is more effective, just as safe and was estimated to result in over 20 per cent reduction in incidence and mortality from cervical cancer in Australian women compared to the program it replaces, based on two yearly Pap smears.
Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program are good news for women as the test is more accurate, can be done less often and can start at 25 years of age. Healthcare providers will still perform an examination using a vaginal speculum and take a sample, but the sample medium is liquid-based and will be tested for the presence of HPV. Some people are eligible to collect their own sample. Self-collection is a safe and effective option for women aged 30 or older, who are either more than 2 years overdue for screening, or have never screened. You need to talk to your doctor, nurse or health worker about this option.
Health providers should regularly check for updates to the 2016 National Cervical Screening Program: Guidelines for the management of screen-detected abnormalities, screening in specific populations and investigation of abnormal vaginal bleeding. The latest version is available on Cancer Council Australia's Cancer Guidelines Wiki.
More information can be found on the NCSP website.
BreastScreen WA invites Western Australian women aged 50 to 74 years, with no breast symptoms, to screen for breast cancer every two years with a free screening mammogram.
Women aged 40 to 49 years or 75 and over are also eligible to attend.
Over 75% of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age.
Evidence shows that a recommendation by a health professional is a key motivator for participants to screen.
- Display information - Display brochures, flyers, and posters in your practice; these can be ordered from the NCSR website for breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening.
- Talk to your patients - Be familiar with the tests used in the three national screening programs so you can explain them to your patients.
- Change practice systems - The National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) portal enables healthcare providers to access screening information for participants of the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP). The portal can be integrated with practice software including Best Practice, and MedicalDirector.
- Identify under-screened or unscreened patients - Utilise clinical audit recipes and system prompts.