ABOUT BOWEL SCREENING/

Many people do not experience bowel cancer symptoms until the cancer has become more advanced or spreads to other parts of the body. In fact, bowel cancer can be present for many years before showing any symptoms.

Detected early, 99% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated, or even prevented. Regular bowel screening using a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is one of the most effective ways to detect bowel cancer early.

The simple at-home screening test (FOBT) looks for blood in your bowel movement – a common sign of bowel abnormality – that might be invisible to the naked eye. It is not a test for cancer.

There are several different at-home screening tests available and the method of completing them varies.

Generally the test requires you to collect a sample from two separate bowel movements using a brush or stick. The samples are transferred to a test card or tube and stored at a low temperature.

When you have collected both samples you post them to the pathology lab, using the envelope provided in the test kit.

Most screening test providers will return the result to you and your doctor within 14 days.

WHEN TO SCREEN FOR BOWEL CANCER /

Medical guidelines in Australia recommend at-home screening at least once every two years for people between the age of 50 and 74.

However, bowel cancer does affect people under age 50 too. Around 11% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer in Australia are younger than 50, which is estimated to be 1,800 people this year.

We urge all Australian adults to be aware of bowel cancer and to speak to your GP immediately if you have any concerns or are interested in screening before the recommended age of 50 or after age 74.

If you are experiencing symptoms or have a family history of bowel cancer, the at-home screening test may not be right for you.

You should contact your GP to discuss your specific circumstances and screening that is appropriate for you.

Where to get a screening test/

About positive test results/

If your result is positive you will be advised by letter to contact your GP to discuss the result, or your general practice might telephone you to make an appointment.

Your GP will generally refer you to a specialist for a follow up colonoscopy to find out what is causing the bleeding.

On average 7% of test results are positive for the detection of blood. This may be due to a number of conditions such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel.

Of the positive test results, less than 5% are found to be caused by bowel cancer.

About negative test results/

A negative test result indicates no blood was detected in your bowel movement. However screening tests are not always 100% accurate, because cancers and precancerous polyps only bleed intermittently.

You should repeat the at-home screening test every two years to increase the chances of early detection.

Regardless of your screening test result, please consult your GP if you develop symptoms. You can read more about symptoms HERE.