- Bowel cancer kills 73 Australians every week (the nation’s second-biggest cancer killer) affecting both men and women. However, if it’s found early, nearly all cases of bowel cancer can be cured.
- Screening helps to find early-stage bowel cancer when treatment has the best chance of success.
- If you are 50 or over, Cancer Council recommends doing a simple screening test every two years. Regular screening is important because you can have bowel cancer without any noticeable symptoms.
- It is Australia’s most expensive cancer, costing an estimated $1 billion each year to the health system – mostly in taxpayer-funded pharmaceutical and hospital costs. By expanding the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program the Australian Government could reduce health system expenditure and save lives.
What does bowel cancer screening involve?
Screening for bowel cancer involves taking a tiny sample from two separate bowel motions using an at-home test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). The completed FOBT is then mailed to a laboratory for analyses – experts look for traces of blood which may be invisible to the naked eye, but could be an early sign of bowel cancer. If blood is found in either sample, the participant is sent a letter encouraging them to speak to their doctor about further testing, usually a colonoscopy.
Those with symptoms (see Warning Signs below) or a strong family history of bowel cancer should see their doctor immediately.
Bowel Cancer symptoms
Bowel cancer often develops without symptoms. However, when they do occur, they might include:
- bleeding from the back passage or any sign of blood after a bowel motion
- ongoing changes in bowel habits, for example, loose or more frequent bowel motions, increased constipation
- feeling your bowel does not empty completely
- abdominal pain
- loss of weight for no obvious reason
- unexplained fatigue, weakness or breathlessness.
It is important to see your doctor immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms.
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
People turning 50, 55 or 65 will be sent a free FOBT in the mail as part of the Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. If you’re eligible we strongly encourage you to take part. For further information about the national program call 1800 118 868 or visit www.cancerscreening.gov.au
If you are over 50, but not eligible for the national program, ask your doctor about getting hold of an FOBT. Because bowel cancer often develops without symptoms doing an FOBT could save your life.
Cancer Council believes that all Australians over 50 have a right to a free FOBT from the Government. You can support our campaign to save lives by emailing your local, Federal MP via the button below.
For further information call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20. Alternatively, more information can be found on the Cancer Council websites for each state and territory: