Bowel cancer - the facts
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia and around 80 Australians die from the disease every week.
Bowel cancer develops in the wall or lining of the colon. It begins when cells grow too quickly, forming a clump known as a polyp or adenoma. Most are benign (non-cancerous), but over several years, some can become cancerous. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to other areas of the body.
If caught early, up to 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated. The risk of bowel cancer increases with age and if you’re over 50 your risk increases significantly.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is expanding
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), which was introduced in 2006, is helping to save lives every day.
The program offers free screening for bowel cancer to eligible Australians and will be expanded from 2015.
By 2020, all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years of age will be offered free screening every two years. This means about 4 million Australians will be invited to screen each year and more than 12,000 suspected or confirmed cancers will be detected each year.
Why bowel screening works
Bowel cancer screening saves lives. It is the best way of detecting bowel cancer early, because it often develops without symptoms.
Early diagnosis improves treatment options and chances of survival. Evidence shows, regular screening can reduce deaths from bowel cancer by 15-25% and prevent between 300-500 deaths each year.
Most cancers detected through the program have been in the earliest stages and we know that if detected early, up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated.
So when you receive your kit, it’s important that you complete and return it.
How do I participate in the program?
Under the program, eligible Australians will receive an invitation in the mail, which includes a faecal occult blood test kit and an information booklet. Completing the test is quick and easy and it can be done in the privacy of your own home. Simply follow the instructions and then return your samples in the prepaid envelope supplied.
The test is free and you’ll get your results back in a couple of weeks. If your test result is positive, you will need to contact your doctor to discuss the result and any further tests required.
The program is currently inviting men and women 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 to screen for bowel cancer. Between 2015 and 2020, more age groups will be added to the program. By 2020, all Australians aged 50-74 will be invited to screen every two years.