1. What I need to Ask: Screening for Bowel Cancer

Screening for bowel cancer using an faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is recommended every 1 to 2 years from age 50 for people who do not have any obvious symptoms or a personal/family history of the disease.

It is very important that negative tests are repeated every 1 to 2 years and positive tests are followed by colonoscopy.

However, you should never be told you are too young to have bowel cancer as it is increasingly affecting all age groups.

People under 50 years of age can also participate in bowel cancer screening - through the BowelScreen Australia® Program - by visiting a participating community pharmacy.

However, if you develop any symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

Since everyone has a unique medical and family history, it is important to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with bowel cancer.

Below is a list of questions to ask your doctor about screening for bowel cancer.  Mark the questions you would like answered and take them with you to your next appointment.

Questions to ask your doctor about bowel cancer screening

  • Based on my personal and family history, do I have any of the risk factors that would make me likely to develop bowel cancer? 
  • Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for bowel cancer?
  • If I have any of the risk factors, are there any changes I can make to reduce the risk? 
  • What are the signs and symptoms that I should be aware of?
  • Should I have any of the tests that would screen me for bowel cancer? 
  • If so, what screening test(s) do you recommend for me?
  • How do I prepare for these tests?  Do I need to change my diet, lifestyle or my usual medication schedule? 
  • What is involved in the test?  Will it be uncomfortable or painful?  Is there any risk involved? 
  • When and from whom will I obtain my results?
  • If I am to have a colonoscopy who will do the examination? 
  • Will I require someone with me on the day of the examination?
  • How often will I be requiring a colonoscopy?
Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Bowel Cancer Australia App
Bowel Cancer Australia Risk and Screening Pathway