Colon Cancer Screening
We are providers of the providers for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is an Australian Government initiative for free bowel cancer screening tests for all Australians, if you are turning 50, 55, 60 or 65 you will receive an invitation through the mail. You will be encouraged to complete a test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) in the privacy of your home and mail it to a laboratory for analysis. The test looks for blood in bowel motions, which may be a sign of bowel cancer.
Participants with a positive FOBT will be advised to discuss the result with their doctor, who will generally refer them for further investigations, usually a colonoscopy.
You may be eligible to participate in the Program and receive a free bowel cancer screening test kit.
- The test should arrive in the mail around your birthday. If not, contact the Program on 1800 118 868.
Why do eligible people who don’t have any symptoms need to participate in screening?
Screening involves testing for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease. The aim is to find cancer early when it is easier to treat. Regular screening is important because bowel cancer can develop without any early warning symptoms. Bowel cancer can be treated successfully if detected in its early stages.
What does a positive FOBT result mean?
Positive results from bowel screening programs do not confirm the presence of bowel cancer but it does indicate the presence of blood that may not be visible to the naked eye in your bowel movement. This may be an early warning sign. You should speak to your doctor who will initiate further investigation such as a colonoscopy.
Doing an FOBT every two years, can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to one third.
What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is a malignant growth that develops mostly inside the large bowel. Bowel cancer predominantly develops from tiny growths inside the colon or rectum called polyps. Polyps look like cherries on stalks or small spots on the bowel lining. Not all polyps become cancerous. The risk of bowel cancer is reduced f polyps are removed in a timely manner.
The beginnings of bowel cancer
Illustration above courtesy of the Australian Government: Dept of Health
How common is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is one of Australia’s most common cancers, especially amongst the over 50s. It is a major cause of cancer deaths, with approximately 103 Australians dying from bowel cancer each week. In 2022, the most common causes of cancer related deaths in Australia were breast, lung, colon and rectum and prostate cancers. (Stats from Australian Institute of Health website.)
Who is at risk of bowel cancer?
Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer. In Australia, the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer before the age of 75 years is around 1 in 19 for men and 1 in 28 for women. This is one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.
The risk is greater for people who:
- are aged 50 years and over – risk increases with age;
- have a significant family history of bowel cancer or polyps;
- have had an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; or
- have previously had special types of polyps, called adenomas, in the bowel.
People at above average risk of bowel cancer should talk to their doctor about relevant screening options.