Screening program

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

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The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is an Australian Government screening program. Other government cancer screening programs in Australia are the BreastScreen Australia and National Cervical Screening Programs.

Bowel cancer screening is designed to check for signs of bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms, but are at higher risk of developing bowel cancer because they in the 50 or over age group.

The program uses a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), a simple test that you can do at home.

Currently, Australians aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 are eligible for the test free of charge.

More age groups will be added over the next six years and by 2020, the test will be available free (once every two years) to all Australians aged 50 to 74.

If you are 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 you will be sent an invitation to screen from the Australian Government, which will include an FOBT kit. Simply follow the instructions and mail the completed test in the envelope provided.

If your test is positive, you and your nominated GP will be advised. Your GP will then refer you for further investigation.

Most positive test results do not turn out to be cancer. However, if bowel cancer is diagnosed, it’s twice as likely to be picked up early through the screening program and be cured.

If I am not eligible, can I still have a test?

If you are not currently eligible for the program, you can still be tested. Your GP can request an FOBT kit. Most pathology practices bulk bill for the test.

Kits can also be obtained over the counter from some pharmacies, while some pathology services and health organisations provide online options for purchasing a kit. Cancer Councils in South Australia and Victoria also sell kits (call 13 11 20). You should discuss the use of FOBT kits with a GP before purchasing one.

If you are younger than 50 and concerned about bowel cancer, or have a family history of bowel cancer, please talk to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

For more information on the program:

Department of Health – National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Government Program