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25th June 2024 Latest News Bowel Cancer

New dual test could cut colonoscopy wait times

Erin Symonds

A new approach to bowel cancer screening could help prioritise high-risk patients for a colonoscopy and ease the burden on the public health system.  

Screening for bowel cancer is done through an at-home stool test, with a positive result triggering further investigation.  

While the gold-standard for diagnosis is a colonoscopy, recent data has shown that some patients face at least an 83-day wait for the procedure.  

Now, a new dual test could more accurately identify patients at high-risk of developing bowel cancer so they can be prioritised for a colonoscopy.  

Thanks to a grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group, Flinders University Associate Professor Erin Symonds will introduce this novel test to an Australian cohort for the first time – through trials in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Noarlunga Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre.   

Patients booked in for a colonoscopy are asked to complete the test, with the lab results compared against what was found during the procedure.  

It is hoped this could free up the number of people waiting on hospital lists, revolutionising bowel cancer care for patients like Renee Smith.

A/Prof Symonds said combining two biomarkers, haemoglobin and calprotectin, could give a more accurate diagnosis, and therefore better triage high-risk patients and cut colonoscopy wait times.   

“We believe that this new test will have the potential to not only work out which patients need to be sent to colonoscopy faster, but it will also determine which patients would not need colonoscopy at that time,” she said.   

“We will look to see if this two-marker test can be a simple way to determine which individuals in the community need to be booked for urgent colonoscopy.   

“This will ensure that people who are at higher risk for bowel cancer are seen as soon as possible.”

Australia has some of the highest rates of bowel cancer globally, with an estimated 15,000 new cases diagnosed last year alone.   

Of the approximate 900,000 colonoscopies performed each year, only about 15 per cent of patients have advanced lesions.   

Successful bowel cancer treatment relies on early invention and delayed access to the procedure can increase the chances of the cancer becoming more aggressive.  

We look forward to keeping you updated on this exciting project!