Screening every 1-2 years from age 50 could save your life
Bowel cancer screening involves a test for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease.
Bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. The cancer can grow on the inside wall of the bowel for several years before spreading to other parts of the body.
Often very small amounts of blood, invisible to the naked eye, leak from these growth and pass into bowel movements before any symptoms are noticed.
A bowel cancer screening test called a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) can detect these small amounts of blood in bowel movements.
The test looks for blood in your bowel movement, but not for bowel cancer itself.
Screening using a faecal immunochemical test is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of bowel cancer as it can help detect pre-cancerous polyps for removal during colonoscopy or cancer in its earliest stages when it is easier to treat and cure.
The faceal immunochemical test involves placing small samples of toilet water or stool on a special card and mailing them to a pathology laboratory for analysis. The results are then sent back to you and your GP.
A negative result means blood has not been detected in your samples and it is recommended that you repeat a bowel cancer screening test every 1 to 2 years. However, this does not mean that you do not have, or can never develop, bowel cancer, since some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. In between times, if you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer, see your GP immediately.
A positive result means blood has been detected in your samples. If blood is detected, you should contact your GP immediately to discuss the result and obtain a referral for further investigation via colonoscopy within 30 days. The presence of blood may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids, or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of bleeding needs to be investigated by colonoscopy. During the procedure, any polyps can be identified and removed or a diagnosis of bowel cancer confirmed.
Research shows that regular screening with a faecal immunochemical test can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer.
The faecal immunochemical test has been selected as the preferred testing method for the BowelScreen Australia® Program and the Australian Government''s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).
Bowel Cancer Australia encourages all Australians from age 50, who do not have symptoms or a family history of bowel cancer, to undertake bowel cancer screening every 1 to 2 years using a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).
Screening tests have risks
Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your GP or Pharmacist. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.
False-negative test results can occur
Screening test results may appear to be normal even though bowel cancer is present. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.
False-positive test results can occur
Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests (such as biopsy), which also have risks.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist today about BowelScreen Australia®
or purchase a test online or by phoning 1800 555 494.