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33,000 Victorians to benefit from important new bowel cancer screening pilot program.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

March 11, 2003


More than 33,000 men and women living in Melbourne will receive a free bowel cancer screening self-test kit as part of a Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot Program launched in Melbourne today by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson.

Currently in Australia, bowel cancer kills an Australian every two hours. The aim of this important new Pilot program is to help detect bowel cancer early and therefore reduce the number of people who die from the disease each year.

"Overseas evidence shows that bowel cancer detected early using self-test kits can cut the death rates for this type of cancer by up to 33 per cent," Senator Patterson said.

The Federal Government will spend more than $7.2 million over the next 18 months to fund bowel cancer screening in three Pilot sites involving over 60,000 Australians in the 55-74 age group in Adelaide, Mackay and Melbourne.

"Although bowel cancer is the most preventable cancer, it is currently the second-most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia, after lung cancer. About 90 people die every week of this disease and around one in 20 Australians will develop the disease in their lifetime," Senator Patterson said.

Senator Patterson said the Pilot will need to be evaluated before a decision to establish a national screening program is made.

"This project has the potential to have the same public health impact as the national cervical and breast cancer testing programs which saw a 40 per cent reduction in deaths for cervical cancer between 1986 and 1997, and it has fallen from 8th to 14th most common cause of cancer death. Breast cancer deaths have also decreased in women aged 50-69 by 16.9 per cent between 1993 and 1998," Senator Patterson said.

"For the first time in Australia, men will be involved in a mass population screening cancer program and as they have a higher death rate from bowel cancer than women, I strongly encourage those who receive a kit to participate in the Pilot. And the good news is, it can be done in the comfort of their own homes," she said.

Further information: Sarah Higginbottom, Assistant Media Adviser,

Phone 0411 405 341