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Consumer choice and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Glenn P Salkeld, Jane M Young and Michael J Solomon
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (11): 541-542.
Published online: 5 June 2006

The opportunity for informed choice in screening is limited

Commencing in mid 2006, the Australian Government will phase in a national bowel cancer screening program for men and women who turn 55 or 65 years of age, and for those who participated in the government’s pilot screening program, conducted from November 2002 to June 2004.1 Eligible people will be invited to complete an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (FOBT) in the privacy of their own home and mail it in for analysis.2 Consumers will not be offered a choice of screening test. The government came to this position after commissioning a review of the costs, benefits and harms of different screening options3 and evaluating the pilot screening program.1 The study by The Multicentre Australian Colorectal-neoplasia Screening (MACS) Group in this issue of the Journal (A comparison of colorectal neoplasia screening tests: a multicentre community-based study of the impact of consumer choice)4 suggests that participation in screening does not differ significantly between different screening tests that might be offered. The implication is that consumer choice can be taken out of the equation if maximising participation is the primary objective of screening. If consumer choice does not influence participation, then why not offer a range of screening tests? This invites two prior questions — to what extent should the Australian Government be concerned about consumer choice and participation, and what criteria should be applied to determining screening options?

  • Glenn P Salkeld1,2
  • Jane M Young2
  • Michael J Solomon2

  • 1 Screening Test Evaluation Program (STEP), School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Surgical Outcomes Research Centre (SOuRCe), Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW.

Correspondence: glenns@health.usyd.edu.au

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