Early detection

Early detection saves lives

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More than 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found early.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

  • blood in your poo or in the toilet bowl
  • a recent and persistent change in your toilet habit, such as looser poos, severe
  • constipation and/or if you need to poo more often than usual
  • unexplained tiredness or weight loss
  • stomach pain.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important that you speak to your doctor.

Bowel cancer can develop without any obvious symptoms. This is why it is important to screen.

We recommend all Australians aged 50-74 to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

In 2019, the free at home test will be sent to all Australians aged 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74. From 2020, all eligible Australians aged 50-74 will be invited to screen every two years.

What is the test?

Screening for bowel cancer involves a simple, at home test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). This test looks for traces of blood in the poo which are invisible to the human eye and could be a sign of bowel cancer.

How does the test work?

To complete the test, you need to take tiny samples from two bowel motions using a test kit. These are analysed at a pathology laboratory. The process is quick, simple and hygienic.

If blood is detected, your doctor is likely to refer you for a colonoscopy. Most positive tests are not the result of cancer. However, if cancer is detected early, there is higher chance of it being treated successfully.

When will I receive the test?

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is currently expanding to introduce a two-yearly screening interval. In 2019, the following age groups are being invited to participate:

50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74

If you don’t receive a kit, call the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line on 1800 118 868 to see when you will receive a free at home test.

For more information on the Program, visit the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program website.