HCF Research Foundation supports key colonoscopy study as screening age lowers to 45


As Australia marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this June, the HCF Research Foundation proudly highlights its support of a pivotal research project aimed at improving surveillance colonoscopy, a key tool in diagnosing and preventing bowel cancer.

Led by Monash University Professor (Research) Denise O’Connor, the “Value in Care – Optimising Surveillance Colonoscopy (VIC-COL)” study has been making significant strides since receiving HCF Research Foundation funding in 2022.

The research is especially timely with the government’s recent announcement to extend the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) to Australians aged 45-49 starting from 1 July 2024.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer, but highly treatable if caught early.

The VIC-COL study aims to ensure that surveillance colonoscopy resources are used most effectively, so that patients receive the right care at the right time, in line with best practice guidelines.

“Clinical practice guidelines produced by Cancer Council Australia and endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council provide guidance for healthcare professionals and their patients on the need for and timing of future surveillance colonoscopy,” said Professor O’Connor.

“By improving adherence to these guidelines, we can ensure high-quality care and better health outcomes for patients,” Professor O’Connor said.

With the upcoming inclusion of an additional 1.6 million Australians aged 45-49 in the NBCSP, it is more critical than ever to ensure that colonoscopy resources are efficiently allocated to those who most need them.

A surveillance colonoscopy is a follow-up procedure performed at appropriate intervals after an initial colonoscopy has detected pre-cancerous lesions, polyps, or cancer.

Unlike an initial colonoscopy, which is a diagnostic procedure used to investigate symptoms or as part of routine screening to detect abnormalities in the colon, a surveillance colonoscopy is conducted to monitor patients who have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer.

The study has shown remarkable progress within its first 18 months, working with six hospitals to refine initiatives like training nurse champions, conducting regular chart audits, and providing feedback to healthcare professionals to support guideline-concordant surveillance colonoscopy intervals.

Dr Chris Pettigrew, Head of the HCF Research Foundation said, “The HCF Research Foundation’s continued support of the VIC-COL project exemplifies our commitment to translating research findings into real-world practice, with the aim of delivering better patient outcomes and more cost-effective and efficient health services.

“We’re proud to champion projects like VIC-COL that have the potential to make a significant impact on delivering quality healthcare,” Dr Pettigrew said.

/Public Release.