Regional Australians need more access to bowel cancer help

A NEW report has highlighted the geographical issue impacting bowel cancer deaths, with some areas in regional and rural Australia not having convenient access to treatment.

The report, In the Crosshairs of Colorectal Cancer, found the rate of bowel cancer deaths was highest in rural and retirement communities, where the 50-79 age group made up a third of the population.

Parts of regional Australia at a higher risk of bowel cancer appeared to be "well removed" from convenient access to regional cancer treatment centres, the report said.

Access to cancer centres was found to be poorest on the remote edges of rural Australia in places such as the Wimmera in Victoria, the mid-north coast of Western Australia and the Mackay region in Queensland.

The report, developed by KPMG Demographics and commissioned by Bowel Cancer Australia, will be released on Monday to coincide with Bowel Cancer Australia's Don't Wait Until It's Too Late campaign.

Bowel Cancer Australia CEO Julien Wiggins said the report demonstrated the need for public health programs to be based not only on age but also geography.

"The government's age-based national screening program has significant regional implications with positive tests requiring further investigation via colonoscopy within 30 days," Mr Wiggins said.

He also said colonoscopy waiting times in the public health system had exceeded recommended timeframes.

"Bowel cancer patients require timely access to surgery, treatment and cancer support services, however, these are not always available locally which can adversely impact patient outcomes," Mr Wiggins said.

Report author, demographer Bernard Salt, said bowel cancer attacked the middle-aged with "progressive lethality", with rates leaping tenfold between the ages of 50 and 79.

About 95% of bowel cancer deaths occur in the over-50 age group.

"By 2026, more than eight million Australians will be in the crosshairs of colorectal cancer, a largely preventable disease. A compelling reason in itself for the nation to embrace public health initiatives designed to address this urgent issue," Mr Salt said.



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