Bowel Cancer Australia calls for national colonoscopy wait-time guarantee | map

Need for change: Chief executive officer and executive director, Bowel Cancer Australia, Julien Wiggins.
Need for change: Chief executive officer and executive director, Bowel Cancer Australia, Julien Wiggins.

Port Macquarie's Alastair Lloyd says he supports Bowel Cancer Australia calls for the introduction of a national colonoscopy wait-time guarantee.

Mr Lloyd says it is 'vitally important' for people to undertake a colonoscopy where symptoms of bowel cancer are detected.

Support for the wait-time guarantee, he says, would help prevent bowel cancer from worsening.

"I am aware, in general discussions with people, that some are not bothered with having a colonoscopy procedure done," Mr Lloyd said.

"With my experience, I believe it is quite important to have the procedure. It turned out, in my case, to be a life saver.

"I got the all clear (for bowel cancer) in my younger days but later in life I developed polyps.

"These were successfully removed and while there were no further complications, I continue to have regular and annual follow up procedures."

Mr Lloyd said every one of the removed polyps is concerned a potential cancer devleoping.

"From the figures I've seen, there were some 500,000 colonoscopies carried out in Australia last year. Perhaps it should be a lot higher, so that nobody gets missed, he added.

Mr Lloyd said he supports the Bowel Cancer Australia calls for a wait-time guarantee for colonoscopy procedures.

The national body says bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia.

Chief executive, Julien Wiggins, says it is unacceptable that people with a positive screen or bowel cancer symptoms have to wait six months or longer for a colonoscopy to learn if they have cancer.

Despite extending the recommended timeline-to-diagnosis by 300%, the new timeframes are still not being met

Julien Wiggins

Research shows diagnostic intervals exceeding 120 days are associated with poorer outcomes, yet 90% of National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) participants with a positive screen are waiting between 116-181 days.

Bowel Cancer Australia has long advocated for referral to colonoscopy within 30 days to minimise patient stress and anxiety, as recommended in the Optimal Care Pathway for people with bowel cancer.

Newly released medical guidelines however, are now recommending patients be referred to colonoscopy within a maximum 120-day threshold.

“Despite extending the recommended timeline-to-diagnosis by 300%, the new timeframes are still not being met,” said Mr Wiggins.

“What is needed is a Colonoscopy Wait-time Guarantee, complete with public wait time recording, reporting and adequate resourcing of colonoscopy.

“Publishing wait times will highlight where resources need to be allocated to improve patient care and will demonstrate a clear commitment on the part of government to meet their own endorsed colonoscopy wait-time recommendations.

In the UK, the NHS Constitution pledges a six week (42 day) wait time for diagnostic tests. As of December 2017, 92.7% of patients received a colonoscopy within the targeted 42 days or less from time of referral.iv,v

In contrast, only 4-in-10 (40%) participants in the Australian national screening program received a colonoscopy within 60 days

“People who receive a positive screen or experiencing bowel cancer symptoms need assurance that they will receive a necessary diagnostic colonoscopy within recommended guidelines,” Mr Wiggins said.

Early treatment: Associate Professor Graham Newstead AM

Early treatment: Associate Professor Graham Newstead AM

Colorectal surgeon, Graham Newstead, said during a colonoscopy, pre-cancerous polyps can be detected and removed before they develop into something more sinister requiring surgery and treatment.

“If bowel cancer is detected, and it is still in the earliest stages, 90 percent of cases can be successfully treated,” he added.

Over the next 4 weeks, Bowel Cancer Australia is encouraging people to petition the House of Representatives to ensure Australians with bowel cancer symptoms or a positive screen, receive a diagnostic colonoscopy with a maximum wait time of 120 days, no matter where in Australia they live.


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