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A guide to: Bowel cancer screening

Cancer screening saves lives

A guide to: Bowel cancer screening
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Phone: Infoline: 1800 627 701 8:30am - 5pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays)

Bowel cancer screening saves lives. And screening is one of the most effective ways to detect early signs of bowel cancer. When found early, most  bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.

With COVID-19 on your mind, some things may have been forgotten – like your bowel screening test kit.

Test samples are continuing to be processed during COVID-19 and your results will be mailed to you.

If you have received a test kit don’t leave it in a drawer. Do the free test today. With more time at home it’s never been easier. If you have misplaced or thrown your kit away call the Infoline on 1800 627 701 for a replacement kit.

Now is the time to tick bowel screening off your to-do list. It could save your life.

Why is bowel cancer screening important?

Bowel (or colorectal) cancer causes the second highest number of cancer deaths in Australia after lung cancer. However, around 90% of bowel cancer cases are cured if detected early.

Cancer Council Australia recommends that Australians aged 50- 74 complete a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years. FOBT is the most effective population screening tool for detecting early signs of bowel cancer.

Who is bowel screening for?

If you are aged 50-74, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will send you a free bowel screening test in the mail every two years. It’s important you do it as soon as possible.

If you are not yet eligible for the program, but  have symptoms, a family history or are concerned about bowel cancer, speak to your GP about your options.

For more information on bowel cancer screening, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or check the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program website.

How to participate

The free bowel screening test is something you do yourself easily at home. Instructions are clearly given in the pack you will receive, and your results will indicate what action, if any, you need to take.

If you have a positive result don’t put off your follow up because of COVID-19 - it is important that you talk to your doctor about a referral for a colonoscopy, and be sure to attend when this is scheduled by the hospital.

Screening in the age of COVID–19

The advent of COVID-19 isn’t an excuse to put off doing your home test kit if you have received one. In fact, with many of us spending more time at home it’s a perfect time to do the test. It’s quick and easy to complete and your results are mailed back to you. If your test kit has expired or you have misplaced it, call the Infoline on 1800 627 701 for a free replacement. 

If you are concerned about doing the test if you have confirmed to be infected or are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, talk to you GP. If it’s okay for you to leave home, do the test and drop it in the mail using the pre-paid envelope.

If you receive a positive bowel test result talk to your GP about whether you should do a follow-up test, including whether you may need to be referred for a colonoscopy. 

Practices across Australia are taking extra care to meet CovidSafe regulations to protect against the transmission of COVID-19. Contact the specialist to find out about their colonoscopy waiting list and to discuss the measures being taken to keep you and others safe from COVID–19 during your appointments and procedure.

There are also a few things you can do to help keep yourself and others safe, such as:

  • attending your appointment alone
  • arriving no more than five minutes early
  • practicing good hygiene, including hand washing
  • keeping a distance of 1.5 metres from others
  • staying at home if unwell. You can reschedule your appointment.
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Brian's story

Bowel Cancer Screening Saves Lives: Brian's Story

Erik's story

Erik  Carapetian received the bowel screening test in the mail shortly after his 50th birthday. Erik did the test straight away, even though he normally wouldn’t bother with as he was healthy, active, didn’t smoke and had no symptoms

The test came back positive and Erik’s GP sent him for a colonoscopy which detected a tumour. Erik was booked in for surgery and within a week of diagnosis the tumour had been removed and was confirmed as bowel cancer.

Erik’s follow up appointments and treatment were not impacted by COVID-19. So there is no reason not to do the test if you have received one in the mail.

This simple test may have saved Erik’s life and he now encourages other Australians, especially men in their 50s, to take advantage of the free National Bowel Screening Program and do the lifesaving test.

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