The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) began in 2006 and aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer by actively recruiting and screening the eligible target population aged between 50 and 74 for early detection or prevention of the disease.

This monitoring report is the first to examine the NBCSP using new key performance indicators.


Of the 2.2 million people invited between January 2013 and December 2014, 37% participated in the program. The national participation rate was slightly higher than the previous rolling 2-year period (2012-2013) (36%). The re-participation rate for people who had taken part in an earlier invitation round and were receiving a subsequent screening invitation was 74%.

Screening results

In 2014, about 35,000 Australians returned a positive screening test, giving a 7% screening positivity rate. Of the people who received a positive screening test, 73% had reported a follow-up diagnostic assessment. The median time from positive screening test result to diagnostic assessment was 55 days.

Cancers and adenomas detected

Cancer and adenoma diagnosis data were not considered complete enough to allow formal performance indicator reporting. However, of the data available for participants who had a diagnostic assessment in 2014, 1 in 32 were diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer (181 and 638 respectively) and adenomas were diagnosed in a further 3,655 participants (1 in 7 participants assessed). Adenomas are benign growths that have the potential to become cancerous, and their removal lowers the risk of future bowel cancers in these participants.

Population groups

Participants who self-identified as Indigenous, participants who lived in Very remote areas and participants who lived in low socioeconomic areas had higher screening positivity rates, yet had a lower follow-up diagnostic assessment rate and a longer median time between a positive screen and assessment.

Since the NBCSP began

Since the program began in August 2006, 2.8 million Australians have participated in the NBCSP, with about 150,000 having a diagnostic assessment to follow up a positive screening result. From the data available for participants who have had diagnostic assessment, 1 in 33 have been diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected cancer and 1 in 6 have had an adenoma detected. A previous data linkage study that the AIHW conducted using NBCSP data found that the NBCSP is contributing to reducing morbidity and mortality from bowel cancer in Australia (AIHW 2014a).