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A bowel cancer screening plan at last

More lives will be saved by fully implementing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2020

The 2014–15 federal Budget included an announcement of $95.9 million for the long-awaited full implementation of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) by 1 July 2020.1 From that date, all Australians aged 50 to 74 years will finally be invited to screen for bowel cancer every 2 years with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT).

The announcement included a plan to incrementally expand the program, currently offered to people aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 years. The program will include 70-year-olds (through a previous funding commitment in 2012) and 74-year-olds from July 2015; people turning 64 and 72 years from 2016; and those aged 54, 58 and 68 years from 2017. The four remaining age groups (52, 56, 62 and 66 years) will be included from 2018 to 2020.1

The rationale is consistent with results from a study by Cenin and colleagues published in this issue of the Journal, which prioritised age groups according to the mortality-reduction benefit that can be expected from FOBT screening.2 Benefit is derived from prioritising screening according to age-based risk and closing gaps in the existing age cohort to shift from 5-yearly to biennial screening.3

A final implementation…