15 May 2024

National bowel cancer prevention charity, the Jodi Lee Foundation, congratulates the Australian Government on the 2024 Federal Budget announcement to lower the eligibility age for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) from 50 years old to 45.

Currently, eligible Australians aged 50-74 receive a free, at-home bowel screening test kit in the mail every two years under the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. From 1 July 2024, Australians aged 45-49 will be able to opt in to the NBCSP and receive the free bowel screening test kit every two years from then on.

As part of the Jodi Lee Foundation’s ongoing commitment to raising awareness for the early detection and prevention of bowel cancer, we have worked closely with the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care to strongly advocate for this change, and we commend the Australian Government for making this decision that will undoubtedly save more lives.


How Will it Work?

Eligible Australians aged 45 to 49 will be able to join the NBCSP by requesting their first bowel screening kit at www.ncsr.gov.au/boweltest or by calling the National Cancer Screening Register Contact Centre on 1800 627 701. They will also be able to talk to their doctor about getting a kit through the NBCSP’s Alternative Access to Kits model.

Once people aged 45 to 49 request their first bowel screening test kit, their next kit will be automatically posted to them two years after their last test result—consistent with existing program practice for people aged 50 to 74.

There is no change to the current program for 50 to 74 year olds, who will continue to automatically receive a bowel cancer screening kit in the mail every two years.


Bowel Cancer Cases in Young Australians Rapidly Rising

Incidences of bowel cancer in young people have risen 266% in the past three decades in Australia. In addition, adults under 50 have been shown to present with more advanced stages of bowel cancer due to a seven-week to two-year delay in diagnosis. This is thought to be due to a low level of suspicion for bowel cancer by clinical providers who assume a benign diagnosis such as irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, food intolerances etc.

Founder and Chair of the Jodi Lee Foundation, Nick Lee OAM, emphasised the importance of early detection and congratulates the Australian Government on lowering the screening age.

“Incidences of bowel cancer in people under 50 are rapidly rising and lowering the screening eligibility age to 45 will indisputably save many more lives. We thank the Australian Government for making this life-saving decision.

“Bowel cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Australia, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s because, if detected in the early stages, up to 99% of cases can be successfully treated. Not only are the survival rates much higher in stage one bowel cancer patients (99%) than stage four (13%), but bowel cancer has the potential to be prevented through removal of pre-cancerous polyps via a colonoscopy.

“Like my wife Jodi, who sadly passed away from bowel cancer at age 41, bowel cancer often develops without any symptoms, which is why screening is so important for early detection,” Mr. Lee said.

“For 45 to 49 year olds to now be able to access the free, at-home bowel cancer screening kit from the Australian Government is a great step towards beating this disease,” Nick said.

The Jodi Lee Foundation looks forward to supporting the Department of Health and Aged Care to promote this change to eligible Australians.