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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What test can I do to detect bowel cancer?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Bowel Cancer Screening involves a test for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease.  The aim is to find any polyps or to find cancer early when they are easier to treat and cure.
    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 amount of blood leak from these growth and pass into the bowel motion before any symptoms are noticed.
    A bowel cancer screening test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) can detect these small amounts of blood in your bowel motion. The FOBT looks for blood in your bowel motion, but not for bowel cancer itself.
    The FOBT is a simple bowel cancer screening test that you can do at home. It involves placing small samples of stool on special cards and sending them to a pathology laboratory for analysis. The results are then sent back to you and your doctor.
    Your FOBT result is negative if no blood is found in your samples and it is recommended that you repeat a FOBT at least every two 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 doctor immediately.
    Your FOBT result is positive if blood is present in your samples.  If blood is detected, you should contact your doctor immediately to discuss the result.  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.
    Studies have shown that FOBT, when performed every 1 to 2 years in people aged 50+, can help reduce the number of deaths due to bowel cancer by 15 to 33 percent.
    We encourage all Australians who are aged 50 and over, who do not have symptoms or a family history of bowel cancer, to undertake bowel cancer screening.
    Bowel Cancer Australia’s bowel cancer Screening Pathway sets out your bowel cancer screening options, based on things like symptoms, personal history, family history and age.
    Click here to view Bowel Cancer Australia’s Screening Pathway
    Information taken from the Bowel Cancer Australia website

  • 1


    Dr Simon Benstock


    Dr Simon Benstock completed his advanced training in Gastroenterology at Prince of Wales and St Vincent’s hospitals in Sydney. His major interests are colon cancer … View Profile

    An FOBT (faecal occult blood test) is a simple test that checks for microscopic amounts of blood in the stool.
    CT scan may show a mass but is not as reliable as colonoscopy, which is a camera inserted into the colon (usually under sedation)

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