Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek says "it's just nuts" that a relatively small number of people offered free bowel cancer screening bother to do the simple at-home test.
Labor has pledged an extra $10 million to lift screening rates which it says give people the best chance of surviving the disease which kills more than 5,000 Australians every year..
"We desperately need to increase the rate of people returning their bowel cancer screening test," she said.
"We see only just over 40 per cent of people who are eligible to do this free test are actually doing the test and returning it.
"It's just nuts really because this literally saves lives."
Of the 3.2 million people sent free bowel cancer test kits in 2015 and 2016, only 41 per cent participated.
If that was lifted to 60 per cent, bowel cancer survival rates could improve by almost 40 per cent.
Ms Plibersek said that would save thousands of lives.
Labor's $10 million commitment will allow the Jodi Lee Foundation, a bowel cancer charity, to run a national awareness campaign about the importance of screening and early detection of the second most common cancer in Australian men and women.
Foundation chairman Nick Lee said the campaign would use prominent Australians turning 50 to encourage more people to do the test.
Mr Lee said the big challenge was getting people to do that first test when they turn 50.
"There is a seemingly real reluctance in relation to bowel cancer to do what is a very simple test," he said.
"They feel it's a bit icky, but it's not really."
Australian Associated Press