National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is an initiative by the Federal Government that aims to reduce death from bowel cancer through early detection. Australia has one the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Around 1 in 23 Australians will develop bowel cancer during their life time.
Bowel screening involves testing for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms. The aim is to detect cancers early so they can be treated. Screening tests can not diagnose cancer but the result will indicate whether further tests (such as imaging or colonoscopy) are required.
There are various screening tests available but the one adopted by the Australian Government is a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). It involves collecting samples of bowel motions which are then analysed to detect traces of blood.
If blood is detected, you have positive results. Please do not be alarmed. About 1 in 13 people will have a positive result and this may be due to other conditions such as polyps, haemorrhoids, diverticular disease or inflammation of the bowel. If you have positive result, you need to contact your doctor, who may recommend further tests be performed.
If you have a negative result, it does not mean you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer. Regular screening is recommended.
It is important to note that if you develop symptoms, such as blood in the bowel motion, change of bowel habits, iron deficiency anaemia, significant unexplained weight loss or significant abdominal pain or mass, then you should see your GP for further investigation.
Current world literature suggests that FOBT should be performed every 2 years as part of a screening program. Currently, NBCSP is inviting people turning 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 74 to participate in screening. You will be sent a free screening kit in the mail around the time of your birthday. The screening test can be completed at home and sent back for analysis.
Further funding from Federal Government will ensure that by 2020, every men and women aged between 50 and 74 will receive a free FOBT every 2 years.