SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer affecting people in Australia.
- In its early stages, bowel cancer may have no symptoms, but if detected early, it can be successfully treated.
- The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) sends free tests in the mail to people aged 50 – 74, every 2 years.
- For most people, screening for bowel cancer involves a simple, at-home screening test.
Bowel cancer screening saves lives
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer affecting Australians and the second leading cause of cancer-related death.
If you are 50 or over, you are at higher risk of bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer can develop with no symptoms. The cancer can grow in the bowel for years before spreading to other parts of the body.
If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated.
Screening for bowel cancer in people aged 50-74 who do not have any symptoms, helps to find cancer early.
Who is eligible for bowel cancer screening?
Age is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer. Generally, your first kit will arrive within the first 6 months of your 50th birthday and then every 2 years after that.
If you have a family history of bowel cancer, please talk to your GP about what screening options are right for you.
Make an appointment with your GP if you have any symptoms (such as unusual changes in your bowel habits or bleeding from the bowel).
How do I complete the screening test?
The bowel screening home test kit is easy to do. It has detailed instructions that tell you how to do the test. This involves taking tiny samples from 2 separate bowel motions (poo).
Once you do the test, send it back in the mail and it will go to a laboratory to be analysed.
What happens once I have done the test?
You will get your results after about 2 weeks. It is very natural to feel anxious while waiting to get your results. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you are feeling.
Negative result for the bowel cancer screening test
A negative result means that blood was not detected in your bowel movement.
This does not mean you will never get bowel cancer or that you definitely do not have cancer because:
- Some bowel cancers don’t bleed, or only bleed sometimes.
- The bowel cancer screening test detects most (up to 85%) but not all bowel cancers.
This is why it is important to do the screening test every 2 years between 50 and 74.
Positive result for the bowel cancer screening test
A positive result means that blood was detected in your bowel movement (poo). Contact your doctor immediately to discuss the result and obtain a referral for further investigation, which is likely to be a .
The presence of blood in your bowel movement does not always mean you have cancer. There are lots of reasons why you could have blood in your poo –such as:
Even so, you will need further investigation to identify the cause of the bleeding. Having a colonoscopy may enable:
- The cause of the bleeding to be found.
- Any polyps to be removed.
- A diagnosis of bowel cancer to be confirmed (if applicable).