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This report presents statistics on the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) using key performance indicators. Of those who were invited to participate in the NBCSP between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2015, 39% undertook screening. For those screened in 2015, 8% had a positive result warranting further assessment. One in 29 participants who underwent a follow-up diagnostic assessment was diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer.
In 2015, about 41,000 Australians returned a positive screening test, giving an 8% screening positivity rate
For participants who had a diagnostic assessment in 2015, 1 in 29 were diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer
The median time from positive screening test result to diagnostic assessment was 53 days
For participants who had a diagnostic assessment in 2015, 1 in 8 were diagnosed with an adenoma
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) began in 2006. It aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer by actively recruiting and screening the eligible target population aged between 50 and 74 for early detection or prevention of the disease.
This monitoring report is the second to examine the NBCSP using new key performance indicators.
Of the 2.6 million people invited between January 2014 and December 2015, 39% participated in the program. The national participation rate was slightly higher than that for the previous rolling 2-year period (2013–2014) (37%). The re-participation rate for people who had taken part in an earlier invitation round and were receiving a subsequent screening invitation was 76%.
In 2015, about 41,000 Australians returned a positive screening test, giving an 8% screening positivity rate. Of the people who received a positive screening test, 70% had reported a follow-up diagnostic assessment. The median time from positive screening test result to diagnostic assessment was 53 days.
Data for cancer and adenoma diagnoses were not considered complete enough to allow formal performance indicator reporting. However, of the data available for participants who had a diagnostic assessment in 2015, 1 in 29 were diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer (168 and 807, respectively) and adenomas were diagnosed in a further 3,538 participants (1 in 8 participants assessed). Adenomas are benign growths that have the potential to become cancerous; their removal lowers the risk of future bowel cancers in these participants.
Participants who self-identified as Indigenous, participants who lived in Very remote areas and participants who lived in low socioeconomic areas had higher screening positivity rates, yet had a lower follow-up diagnostic assessment rate and a longer median time between a positive screen and assessment.
Since the program began in August 2006, about 3.5 million NBCSP screening tests have been completed, with about 186,000 participants having a diagnostic assessment to follow up a positive screening result. From the data available for participants who have had diagnostic assessment, 1 in 32 have been diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer and 1 in 7 have had an adenoma detected. A previous data linkage study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that the NBCSP is contributing to reducing morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer in Australia (AIHW 2014a).
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