Most people should screen for bowel cancer at least once every two years from the age of 50 using a simple at home screening test.
It is important to know bowel cancer also affects people under 50 years of age. Risk increases in your 40s. So if you are 45-49 ask your GP for a free screening test at your next visit.
The most recent statistics from 2013 indicate that 1,313 people under the age of 50 were diagnosed with bowel cancer, representing 9% of the total number diagnosed.
We urge all Australian adults to be aware of bowel cancer and consider whether screening before the recommended age of 50 is right for you.
Speak to your GP if you have any questions or concerns especially if your risk is elevated. Read more.
Where to get a screening test
Bowel screening tests are available from a range of pharmacies for $39.95.
These simple at-home screening tests look for blood in your bowel movement – a common sign of a bowel abnormality – that might be invisible to the naked eye. It does not test for cancer.
If your result is positive you will be advised by letter to contact your GP to discuss the result. You will generally be referred for a follow up colonoscopy to find out what is causing the bleeding.
Around 7% of people will have a positive test result. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids, or inflammation of the bowel. There is a 30-45% chance of the cause being due to polyps, and less than a 10% chance of the cause being bowel cancer.
A negative test result indicates that no blood was detected in your bowel movement.
It is important to note however that screening tests are not always 100% accurate, particularly because cancers and precancerous growths only bleed intermittently. The test should be repeated at least every two years to increase the chances of early detection. Consult your GP if symptoms develop, regardless of your last screening test result.
There are several different screening tests and the method of completing them varies. The ColoVantage Home test available online and through pharmacies simply requires brushing the surface of two separate bowel movements and swabbing the water sample onto a test card.
The card is then posted for pathology lab testing with the results returned to both you and your doctor within 14 days. There is no need for you to change your diet or medication as part of this test.