Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second most common cancer in Australia. It develops within the inner lining of the bowel and usually begins with the growth of a polyp. It is a serious health issue in Australia and is the second-highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
Bowel cancer may form in the colon, but it sometimes extends to the rectum. According to the location of the cancer, colon cancer is divided into several types. The most common is adenocarcinoma. Other types include squamous cell cancers, carcinoid tumours, sarcomas, and lymphomas.
A diagnosis of bowel cancer can be a difficult reality, which is why it is critical to identify early signs of cancer development. Decreasing your risk of developing bowel cancer may also prevent the risk of other complications.
One way you can stay ahead of complications is to carry out a screening test for bowel cancer. A screening test is used to look for signs of disease when a person does not display any gastrointestinal symptoms. This is in contrast to diagnostic tests. If you have a higher risk of cancer, a screening test is recommended.
This test may identify precancerous polyps and help you remove them before they become cancerous. Early detection of bowel cancer may also lead to more effective treatment.
The bowel cancer screening test
Age is considered the main risk factor for bowel cancer. Even if you don’t show any symptoms, if you are 50 or over, experts will recommend this test. Other risks of developing bowel cancer include:
- A family history of bowel polyps
- A family history of bowel cancer
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Increased insulin levels or Type 2 diabetes
It is important to note that there are a few instances in which you may not be able to undergo a screening test:
- You have your period or you finished your period less than three days ago
- You have haemorrhoids (piles) that are bleeding
- You have recently had a colonoscopy
- You have blood in your urine, stool, or in the toilet bowl
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme
Once you turn 50, The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will send you a pre-invitation to do a screening to the address listed in your Medicare record. A test kit will be enclosed with the invite with detailed instructions on how to perform the test.
After you perform the test, you are requested to send the samples to the pathology laboratory in the paid envelope meant for replying. The samples are processed and the result is sent to you and your doctor within two weeks. If your results are negative, you will receive a test every two years until you are 74 years old.
If you don’t want to take part in the programme, you can complete the opt-out form. This means that you won’t receive test kits in the mail. If you want to take a break from the programme, you can defer your screening date.
This programme is offered free of charge to senior citizens. According to research, those who did not receive invitations to screen for bowel cancer had a 13% higher risk of death compared to invitees.
Request more information about bowel cancer screening tests
You can access the test and be eligible for The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme after you turn 50. If you have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer, consult your doctor.
Consult the multidisciplinary team of health professionals which includes gastroenterologists at the Sydney Gut Clinic to perform the test. Identify, early on, if you have bowel cancer and coordinate your treatment.