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Medical Health Aged Care, Research Development

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

HCF 3 mins read
Monash University Professor (Research) Denise O'Connor

THURSDAY, 20 JUNE 2024: 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.

For more information on the HCF Research Foundation and its initiatives, visit


Key Facts:

·        Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is Australia’s fourth most commonly diagnosed and second deadliest cancer. (1)

·        An estimated 15,531 Australians are told they have bowel cancer each year (299 a week), including 1,716 people under the age of 50. (2)

·        Bowel cancer claims the lives of 5,350 Australians every year (103 a week), including 315 people under the age of 50. (2)

·        The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is projected to generate over 100,000 colonoscopies annually, increasing demand on already strained services. (1)

·        The NBCSP will be extended to include Australians aged 45-49 starting from 1 July 2024.


1. Bowel Cancer Australia

2. Worthington J, He E, Lew J-B, St John J, Horn C, Grogan P, Canfell K, Feletto E. Colonoscopies in Australia – how much does the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program contribute to colonoscopy use? Public Health Res Pract. 2023;33(1):e32342216. First published 8 December 2022.

About us:


The HCF Research Foundation’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for HCF members and all Australians by providing funding and support to encourage health services research for the benefit of all. Now in its 24th year, the HCF Research Foundation (the Foundation) is uniquely focused on supporting health services research, an area of research that does not receive significant fundings from other sources. The Foundation’s program aims to address issues of scale and significance in healthcare and to make a tangible impact in the delivery of health services for our members and all Australians. To learn more about the Foundation go to



HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers almost 2 million members with health and life insurance, travel, pet, home and car insurance. HCF has been awarded Outstanding Value Health Insurance by Canstar eight years in a row from 2016-2023. On average over the last ten years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. To learn more about HCF go to


Contact details:

Joni Thomes 0475 576 738 or


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