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Be PROACTIVE when it comes to BOWEL CANCER SCREENING

Why we need to be proactive.

If bowel cancer is found early, it is one of the most treatable cancers.

Let your family, friends and neighbours know. The more we talk about this, the better. Diagnosing this cancer early, means more lives will be saved.

It’s not the easiest of topics to talk about, but it certainly is a worthwhile one.

We know that …

  • 1 in 13 people will develop Bowel Cancer in their lifetime
  • Over 15,000 people are diagnosed each year in Australia – men, women, young & old
  • Bowel Cancer risk increases with age, so screening every 1-2 years from 50 years is recommended (& in some cases, from 45 years)
  • 30% of Bowel Cancer cases have a family history or hereditary contribution

Statistics from Bowel Cancer Australia

How do we screen for bowel cancer?

There are two ways to screen for bowel cancer.

1. The Poo Test

The Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program sends eligible Australians, aged 50 -74 years, a free bowel cancer screening test kit. It is sent to your home address via mail every 2 years. If you have a family history of bowel cancer, your doctor may recommend doing a poo test younger than 50 years old.

If you don’t have symptoms, this test is for you. It is simple and quick to do. This test checks for tiny amounts of blood in your poo, which may not be visible to the naked eye. These tiny traces of blood may come from bowel polyps (a growth of the bowel lining) or bowel cancer. The results are sent to you and your GP.

If your test is positive, it doesn’t mean you have cancer or polyps however, it is important you see your GP to organise a colonoscopy for further investigation.

If your test is negative, there is no need to follow up with your GP and you can repeat the test in another 2 years.

2. Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a well tolerated and safe procedure. It allows the doctor to carefully examine your bowel lining. Bowel cancer or pre-cancerous polyps can be detected, and polyps can be removed to reduce the risk of future bowel cancer.  

The poo test discussed above is for those without symptoms. If you do have symptoms such as a persistent change in bowel habit, unexplained abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or weight loss, then a colonoscopy may be recommended instead of the screening poo test.

If you have a strong family history of bowel cancer, your doctor may also recommend having a colonoscopy instead of doing the poo test.

Being proactive is …

  • TALKING TO YOUR GP if you are concerned about any of the symptoms mentioned above or if you have a family history of bowel cancer.
  • NOT IGNORING the free bowel cancer screening kit from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program when it arrives in the mail. It is important to do it every 2 years from the age 50, if you are well, with no symptoms mentioned above.
  • TAKING STEPS TO REDUCE YOUR BOWEL CANCER RISK
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep active
  • Limit your intake of alcohol
  • Limit your intake of red meat and processed meats
  • Eat foods high in dietary fibre
  • Quit smoking

For more information on the National Bowel Screening Program

For more information on Bowel Cancer


As gastroenterologists, we cannot stress enough the importance of bowel cancer screening. Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if detected early. At GastroNorth, we work closely with GPs and provide a high quality endoscopy service. If your GP has recommended a colonoscopy for bowel cancer screening, an appointment with one of our experienced gastroenterologists can be organised.

Please email your referral to [email protected] and our friendly staff will contact you to organise an appointment.

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