Bowel cancer screening
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 immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) kit every 2 years. You do the test at home and send it back. You don’t need to change what you eat or stop taking your medicines. A test kit can also be purchased from some pharmacies or online.
If the screening test is negative, it means it found no traces of blood in your sample and you’ll receive another test in 2 years. If you develop symptoms between screening tests, let your doctor know. If the screening test is positive, it means there were traces of blood in your sample and you need more tests.
It is important that people do the screening test as it can find early cancers and some precancerous polyps in the bowel. Removing polyps reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer. Finding bowel cancer early improves the chance of surviving the disease.
If you have questions about how to do the test, need to update your contact details, or haven’t received your test kit, call 1800 627 701 or visit National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. If you are an Indigenous Australian, visit indigenousbowelscreen.com.au.
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 how they will monitor your risk of developing bowel cancer
- 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, Senior Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD, The University of Queensland and The University of Sydney; Yvette Adams, Consumer; Dr Cameron Bell, Gastroenterologist, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Queensland Health, QLD; John Clements, Consumer; Dr Fiona Day, Medical Oncologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant, GastroIntestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Prof Alexander Heriot, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Director Cancer Surgery, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Director, Lower GI Tumour Stream, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Kirsten van Gysen, Radiation Oncologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW.
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