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Cancer verdict in the mail

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People turning 60 years today will be among the first to be eligible for a free bowel cancer test under a $16 million expansion of the nationwide screening program.

From today, people who have recently turned 60 years will be among 5.4 million Australians in the next four years offered the chance for a free bowel cancer test.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the initiative was a significant advance in the detection and treatment of one of the nation’s most common cancers, which kills around 80 people a week.

Until today free bowel cancer screening tests were only available for those who have turned 50, 55 and 65 years, and Ms Plibersek said the program’s expansion to include 60-year-olds was an important development, and urged people to take the opportunity.

“While bowel cancer is very common, it can also be successfully treated if it is detected early enough,” she said. “I urge everyone who is invited to participate, to take up the offer straight away and not put it off. It could save your life.”

People contacted by the Government can request a bowel cancer screening kit, which is sent in the mail and can be used in the privacy of their own home.

The kit includes a faecal occult blood test, which can be posted by return mail, and the results are sent directly back to the patient and their nominated doctor.

The screening program will undergo a further expansion on 1 July 2015, when 70-years-olds will be included for the first time.