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 are in the 50-74 age group.

Why this could be the most valuable thing ever to arrive in your mailbox.

Screening kit

Do I need to screen for bowel cancer?

Regular screening is important because bowel cancer can develop without noticeable symptoms.

The risk of developing bowel cancer is greater if you:

  • are aged 50 years and over – your risk increases with age;
  • have had an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis;
  • have previously had special types of polyps, called adenomas, in the bowel; or
  • have a significant family history of bowel cancer or polyps.

What is a significant family history?

You are considered to have a significant family history of bowel cancer if:

  • A close relative (parent, brother, sister or child) developed bowel cancer at a young age (under 55 years); or
  • More than one close relative in your family has had bowel cancer at any age;

More than 75 per cent of people who develop bowel cancer do not have a family history of bowel cancer. If you think you have a family history of bowel cancer, you should talk to your doctor about your risk of getting the disease.

What if I am under 50 or over 74, why can’t I participate?

Screening people aged 50 to 74 provides the greatest health benefit on a whole-of-population basis.

The Program invites eligible people aged 50 to 74 years to complete a free screening test, a similar age range to other international bowel cancer screening programs.

One of the reasons population screening through the NBCSP does not begin until 50 is that bowel cancer is comparatively rarer in younger age groups.

The upper age of 74 years is in keeping with the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council approved Clinical Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer.

The Guidelines were developed after consideration of the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and the overall balance of benefits to risk of harm associated with screening.

If you are outside of this age group and worried about your risk of developing bowel cancer, talk to your doctor or visit the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program website.

People of any age experiencing symptoms or who have a significant family history of bowel cancer, should see their doctor.