BOWEL cancer advocates are calling for more funding to reduce wait times for colonoscopies.
The call from Bowel Cancer Australia comes in the wake of initial findings from its My Colonoscopy Experience questionnaire.
Just under 1500 Australians aged from 18 to 75 who had recently undergone colonoscopy took part in the national survey - the first of its kind - to look at the patient experience before, during and after the procedure.
Nine out of ten respondents (94 per cent) said they thought the wait time for a colonoscopy should be less than a month and just under two-thirds (59 per cent) waited more than the recommended 30 days from referral before receiving their colonoscopy.
A third said they waited more than two months; nearly one in ten of those (seven per cent) reported waiting six months or more.
"Proactive and timely referral is imperative, especially for symptomatic patients and is something that Bowel Cancer Australia continues to actively campaign for," Bowel Cancer Australia Julien Wiggins said.
"The colonoscopy wait-time clock starts ticking from the first GP appointment if you have symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer or a positive test result.
"It is unacceptable for anyone to have to wait up to six months to find out if you have cancer or not," Mr Wiggins said.
When respondents waited longer than six months for their colonoscopy, they were much more likely (40 per cent) to report worsening symptoms. One in five of those who reported waiting six months or more received a bowel cancer diagnosis.
The latest AIHW data reveals people in all states and territories are waiting well beyond 30 days.
In the My Colonoscopy Experience survey, respondents receiving their colonoscopy within the public health system reported waiting on average two and a half months (150 per cent longer than recommended by the World Health Organisation).
As well as participants calling for a more proactive, timely referral service bowel preparation required for colonoscopy was also cited as a key area for improvement.
When asked what could have made the experience better, four out of ten respondents' comments related to improving the bowel prep experience.
Nearly all respondents (97 per cent) felt information about how to prepare for their colonoscopy was clear; however, most respondents (83 per cent) were not offered a choice regarding the type of bowel prep medicine given.
Two in five (41 per cent) mentioned they would have liked more options.
Private hospital patients rated their experiences more positively than public hospital patients throughout the process, but both private and public hospital patients indicated the best part of their colonoscopy experience was positive interactions with staff (36 per cent).
Some of the better aspects of the colonoscopy experience highlighted by respondents included being given clear information about what to expect at each stage; the provision of guidance regarding the post procedure process; and feelings of trust and confidence in staff.
"Communicating the unique patient perspective is vital for understanding how to make services better and safer for patients," said Mr Wiggins.
He said with 1.1million colonoscopies to be performed in Australia in 2020 the My Colonoscopy Experience questionnaire will remain open indefinitely.
"As more and more people share their experience, findings will help shape Bowel Cancer Australia's initiatives and can be used more broadly as a valuable resource to inform policy, programs, and investment in colonoscopy quality and care."
To share your experience, visit mycolonoscopyexperience.org
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