Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer, develops in the inner lining of the colon. This condition usually starts with growths called polyps, which may progress to invasive cancer if not detected early.
Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative which raises awareness of Bowel Cancer aims to inform people of the symptoms and preventative measures.
About 90% of bowel cancer cases are curable if detected in the early stages but bowel cancer may develop inside the bowel for many years without warning signs or symptoms. This is why Australians aged 50 and above are encouraged to complete a screening called faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years.
Often, small amounts of blood can leak from polyps and tumors and pass into bowel motions. FOBT testing kit is used to collect small samples of faeces to be analysed at a pathology laboratory so they can be checked for tiny amounts of blood.
If the tests find anything unusual, further tests may be required to rule out cancer. High sensitivity FOBT is currently the cheapest, most well researched, and acceptable screening test available. It is also the most effective population screening tool for detecting early signs of bowel cancer.
Compared to colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, FOBT is also a non-invasive way to detect bowel cancer.
At Home Bowel Cancer Kits
For those who are 50 above
A free FOBT kit and pathology are sent to all Australians aged 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74 as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Starting in 2020, all eligible Australians aged 50-74 will be invited to screen every two years.
If you are eligible, you will receive an invitation to screen from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program which will include an FOBT kit. The kits usually arrive within six months of an eligible person's birthday. Just follow the instructions and mail the completed test in the envelope provided.
If you're not eligible but aged 50 or over, you should still have an FOBT every two years. Your GP can request an FOBT, which is eligible for a Medicare rebate. Speak to us about your options.
For those who are below 50
If you are under 50, have a family history or are concerned about bowel cancer, you can purchase a screening test from the following sources:
some pharmacies sell FOBT kits over the counter
you can purchase a screening test from Bowel Screen Australia by phoning 1800 555 494
you can also purchase FOBT kits online from some pathology services or health organisations Pharmacy prices range from $32.95 to $39.95
Once you have made your purchase, you can complete the test in the comfort of your own home. Simply follow the instructions in the kit, send your kit back for testing using the prepaid envelope provided and the results will be posted back to you.
If your test turns out to be positive, you will be instructed to consult your GP for further testing.
Not all positive test results turn out to be cancer. However, if further tests confirm cancer and it has been diagnosed early, the chance of having it treated successfully is high.
If blood is detected in your screening test, your doctor is likely to recommend general tests:
Your doctor will feel your abdomen and rectum for signs of lumps and swelling.
The blood test is to help assess your general health and look for signs that are common in people with bowel cancer such as anaemia.
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure where a flexible tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the rectum and gently pushed along the colon to examine the whole length of the large bowel for polyps or other growths.
If the doctor finds any suspicious growth, sample tissue will be removed for biopsy to determine the nature of the growth.
Other tests that are sometimes used to diagnose bowel cancer include CT colonography and sigmoidoscopy.
Contact us if you are experiencing any symptoms or receive a positive test result.
If you have any questions or concerns about bowel cancer or you would like a screening, make a booking with your GP today.
Image sourced from: https://www.cancer.nsw.gov.au