When bowel cancer is found early, it is one of the most treatable cancers. As there may be no symptoms with early stage bowel cancer, screening is one of the most effective ways to detect early signs of this disease.

There are two ways to screen for bowel cancer –

1. The Poo Test

This test is for those with NO SYMPTOMS. This test is also called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and looks for tiny traces of blood in your stool which may not be visible to the naked eye. The blood may come from bowel polyps (a growth of the bowel lining) or bowel cancer. It is a quick and simple test that can be done at home.

In November 2023, The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) endorsed new clinical practice guidelines that support lowering the start age of bowel cancer screening to 45, down from 50 years of age. Bowel cancer is no longer an older person’s disease. 11% of Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are under 50 years of age.

It was recently announced that from July 1 2024, those aged between 45-49 will now also be eligible for a free bowel cancer screening test kit, as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. GREAT NEWS!

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program sends out free test kits to all Australians between the ages of 50-74 every two years. If you are aged between 45-49 years, you will need to register for a free test kit here. You will then receive one every two years until you are 74 years old. The test is quick and simple to complete.

When it arrives in the mail, please use it, it could save your life.

2. Colonoscopy

If your poo test comes back with a positive result, it doesn’t mean you have bowel cancer, but your doctor will want to further investigate. During a colonoscopy, your doctor can carefully inspect your bowel and remove some tiny tissue samples for analysis. During this procedure, pre-cancerous polyps can be removed to reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer in the future. A colonoscopy is a safe and well tolerated procedure and is the best test to assess bowel polyps and either exclude or diagnose bowel cancer.

If you HAVE SYMPTOMS such as blood in your poo or rectal bleeding, a persistent change in bowel habits, unexplained abdominal pain or weight loss, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy instead of the Poo Test.

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 by calling our friendly staff on 9468 9700 or emailing us your referral at [email protected]

Do you have a family history of bowel cancer?

Generally speaking, the more members in your family affected by bowel cancer, and the younger they were at diagnosis, the greater the chance of a family link. If you have a family history, please let your doctor know. You will likely be eligible for earlier screening. It’s just another way you can be PROACTIVE about your health.

As gastroenterologists, our goal is to see a marked reduction in the rate of bowel cancer in the community. Most cases of bowel cancer can be prevented with screening. However, currently only around 43% of the Australian population at risk of bowel cancer is undergoing screening. By continuing to spread awareness on the importance of screening for bowel cancer, we hope the rate of screening increases and more lives are saved.

Disclaimer – This article is for general information and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Always consult a registered health professional regarding any health-related diagnosis or treatment options.