Access to CTC must be improved for bowel cancer patients

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is calling on the Federal Government to improve access to potentially life-saving diagnostic testing for Australian bowel cancer patients.


The recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program: Monitoring Report 2018 showed that some patients aged between 50-74 in every Australian state and territory are having to wait significantly longer than the recommended 120 days to receive a colonoscopy after a positive faecal occult blood test (FOBT) for bowel cancer.


Despite these delays, the Federal Government’s Medical Services Advisory Committee’s (MSAC) Medicare Benefits Schedule currently limits access to Computed Tomography Colonography (CTC), which can also help diagnose bowel cancer.


“Colonoscopies play a vital role in diagnosing Australians with bowel cancer,” RANZCR President Dr Lance Lawler said. “These spiralling waiting times show, however, that the current existing treatment pathway is clearly struggling to cope with the demand for patients affected by this disease.


“Under the current Medicare arrangements, patients can only access CTC – a safe, available and highly accurate tool in diagnosing bowel cancer – if they are referred to a colonoscopist or have had a failed scope in the last three months.


“MSAC’s refusal to expand the rebate means Australian patients endure having to join an ever-expanding colonoscopy waiting list and risking the potentially life-threatening consequences of a delayed diagnosis, or paying out of pocket for CTC.


"The decision is without evidence and defeats the purpose of funding a national colorectal cancer screening program.


“With the majority of Australian bowel cancer patients facing increasing times for diagnosis and treatment, RANZCR calls on the Federal Government to review the rebate policy and improve access to CTC.”


About 17,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with bowel cancer in Australia in 2018, while the number of bowel cancer cases has increased by about 250% between 1982 and 2018. The five year survival rate for bowel cancer patients is 68% - well behind other patients with common cancers such as breast, melanoma and prostate.


“RANZCR, through its Abdominal Radiology Group Australia and New Zealand (ARGANZ), is planning to petition MSAC again later in the year to change the current eligibility arrangements for CTC,” Dr Lawler said.


“We hope that MSAC gives due consideration to CTC in the context of the growing waiting lists.


“With an estimated 4,400 Australians expected to die of bowel cancer this yeariv, RANZCR is urging that MSAC changes the current MBS item descriptions to help ensure patients facing an undue delay can access a CTC.


“RANZCR’s top priority is the well-being of patients. RANZCR is keen to engage further with the Federal Government to implement a more effective treatment pathway that will further benefit patients and ultimately help bowel cancer survival rates.”

See also Bowel cancer - the facts at


2 July 2018.