Cancer Council Australia calls for $15 million investment to expand screening program.
Independent MPs Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie have united today to call on the federal government to expand the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in the next budget.
Speaking together outside Parliament House, the three independent MPs backed Cancer Council Australia’s pre-budget call for the addition of 60 and 70-year-olds to the program.
Currently the program only targets three age groups, those turning 50, 55 and 65 instead of everyone aged 50 and over.
The expansion is estimated to cost around $15 million per year compared to the annual bowel cancer medical bill of $1 billion.
Tony Windsor, the Member for New England, said the money was a modest investment.
“Investing $15 million to add 60 and 70-year-olds to a program that could save many of them from a premature bowel cancer death should be an urgent funding priority for the budget,” he said.
Professor Ian Olver, Cancer Council Australia’s CEO and a medical oncologist, welcomed the MPs’ support.
“Adding 60- and 70-year-olds would immediately save lives and bridge two of the biggest gaps in the program’s reach, while a plan is developed for full coverage of everyone 50 and over.”
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program’s introduction was a bipartisan 2004 election commitment, from then Shadow Health Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Tony Abbott.
Bowel cancer is the nation’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. Projections indicate around 20,000 new cases in 2020.
The Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, said the program’s expansion was overdue. “It is unacceptable that such an effective public health measure continues to be held back simply because of budget concerns, when the data shows it is cost-effective,” Wilkie said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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