Screening for bowel cancer
Screening is the process of looking for cancer or abnormalities that could lead to cancer in people who do not have any symptoms.
Screening is particularly important for bowel cancer, which often has no symptoms in its early stages.
Through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, people aged 50–74 are automatically sent a free iFOBT kit every two years. You do the test at home and send it back. You don’t need to change what you eat or stop your medication. A test kit can also be purchased from some pharmacies.
If the screening test is positive, further tests are needed.
It is important that people do the iFOBT as it can find precancerous polyps and early cancers in the bowel. Removing polyps reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer, and finding bowel cancer early can greatly improve the chance of surviving the disease.
If the screening test is negative, you’ll receive another test in two years (up to age 74). If you develop symptoms between screening tests, let your doctor know.
Screening for people with a higher risk
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is for people without symptoms of bowel cancer.
If you have:
- symptoms of bowel cancer – talk to your doctor about having a colonoscopy or other tests
- another bowel condition, such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease – talk to your doctor about appropriate surveillance
- a strong family history or a genetic condition linked to bowel cancer – talk to your doctor about when you need to start iFOBTs or screening colonoscopies.
Podcast: Tests and Cancer
A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD, and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist and Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Annie Harvey, Consumer; A/Prof Louise Nott, Medical Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Hobart, TAS; Caley Schnaid, Accredited Practising Dietitian, GenesisCare, St Leonards and Frenchs Forest, NSW; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Alina Stoita, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
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