Colonoscopy wait concern

Patients are waiting too long for colonoscopies, according to Bowel Cancer Australia.

The organisation highlighted figures showing 17.6 per cent of Tasmanians did not go on to have a diagnostic assessment after a positive screening.

Only 15.5 per cent received a diagnostic assessment, or colonoscopy, within the recommended one month. Data was from 2014 for people aged between 50 and 74. The national average was 17.4 per cent. The national screening program lets Australians over 50 use a free test to screen by checking for blood in bowel movements.

Bowel Cancer Australia released its My Bowel Cancer, My Voice research on Monday. The survey found one in four people who experienced symptoms waited more than three months before seeking treatment from their GP or an emergency department.

Local government area analysis for Tasmania found West Tamar had the lowest number of bowel cancer deaths at 7.2 per 100,000. Glamorgan Spring Bay had the highest at 18.2 per 100,000. The state’s average age at death from bowel cancer was 71.8 years old. 

Bowel Cancer Australia colorectal surgeon, associate professor Graham Newstead, warned Tasmanians to be aware of symptoms including blood in bowel movements and severe abdominal pains, and said to see their GP if they identified symptoms.   

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said waits were a “national issue” with “waiting lists for colonoscopies growing across the country driven by the National Bowel Cancer Screening program”. 

“Referrals are coming in at a record rate,” he said.

“[The] Tasmanian Health Service is working to address this issue in Northern Tasmania, with recruitment underway for a new full-time gastroenterologist at the Launceston General Hospital so we can respond to patient demand.”

A federal health department spokeswoman said the federal government provided states with hospital funding and states were responsible for delivering services including colonoscopies.