Objective: To assess awareness of and intentions and self-reported participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) in Australia and the program's impact on knowledge of and beliefs about bowel cancer.
Method: Cross-sectional, computer-assisted telephone surveys of Western Australians aged 55–74 years conducted in April 2007 (n = 505) and June 2008 (n = 500) measured beliefs about the prevalence of bowel cancer, its preventability, impact of early detection on life expectancy, knowledge of the symptoms and tests for bowel cancer, and awareness of and participation in the NBCSP.
Results: In 2008, awareness of the Program was 58%. Seventy-seven per cent of those invited to participate in the program agreed to do so. The vast majority believed bowel cancer to be preventable (83%), with early treatment making ‘a great deal of difference’ to life expectancy (85%). Awareness of blood in faeces as a sign of bowel cancer increased from 64% in 2007 to 75% in 2008 (p<0.01). Awareness of FOBT as a test for bowel cancer increased from 54% in 2007 to 70% in 2008 (p<0.01).
Conclusions: The NBCSP appears to have increased knowledge of bowel cancer.
Implications: Education and screening campaigns are required to further increase perceived prevalence of bowel cancer and to increase knowledge of symptoms and risk factors.