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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is bowel cancer screening and how does it detect bowel cancer?

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  • 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

    Thank you for your question.

    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 reduce your risk of dying from 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.
    Information taken from the Bowel Cancer Australia website
    More information on screening for bowel cancer is available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website at Bowel Cancer: Screening -
    Kind Regards,
    The team at Bowel Cancer Australia

    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only.  It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.
    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.
    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

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