Guide to Bowel Cancer Screening

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. Find out more about Australia's bowel cancer screening program. 

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. The bowel cancer screening program provides a simple take home test that helps detect signs of bowel cancer earlier, before symptoms often appear. This greatly increases the chance of successfully curing the disease.

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a Government screening program.  Bowel cancer screening is designed to test for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms, but are at higher risk of developing bowel cancer because they are aged 50 or over.

The program uses a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), a simple test that you can do at home.

Currently, Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 are eligible for the test free of charge. If you are 50, 55, 60 and 65, the Australian Government will mail you an invitation to screen, which will include an FOBT kit.

Simply follow the instructions and mail back the completed test in the envelope provided. More age groups will be added over the next six years and by 2020, the test will be available free (once every two years) to all Australians aged 50 to 74.

What is an FOBT?

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a simple test you can do at home. The test looks for traces of blood in a bowel motion.

It involves taking samples from two or three bowel motions using a test kit. These are analysed at a pathology laboratory. If blood is detected, further tests may be conducted.

How do I get the test?

If you are 50, 55, 60 and 65, the Australian Government will mail you an invitation to screen, which will include an FOBT kit.

If you are not currently eligible for the program, you can still be tested. Your GP can request a FOBT kit. Most pathology practices bulk bill for the test. Kits can also be obtained over the counter from some pharmacies, while some pathology services and health organisations provide online options for purchasing a kit.

You should discuss the use of FOBT kits with a GP before purchasing one.

What happens if my test is positive?

If your test is positive, you and your nominated GP will be advised. Your GP will then refer you for further investigation.

Most positive test results do not turn out to be cancer. However, if bowel cancer is diagnosed, it’s twice as likely to be picked up early through the screening program and be treated successfully.

What if I’m not eligible for the free screening test?

If you are not currently eligible for the program, you can still be tested. Your GP can request a FOBT kit. Most pathology practices bulk bill for the test.

Kits can also be obtained over the counter from some pharmacies, while some pathology services and health organisations provide online options for purchasing a kit.

You should discuss the use of FOBT kits with a GP before purchasing one.

See Cancer Council’s new bowel screening TV commercial.  More information on early detection and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program at bowelcancer.org.au

Want more? We thought you might like this video.

 
 

Sign Out

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

0 comments