Bowel (or colorectal) cancer causes the second highest number of cancer deaths in Australia after lung cancer. However, around 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases are cured if detected early.
Cancer Council Australia recommends that Australians aged 50 and over 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.
The Australian Government's National Bowel Cancer Screening Program currently provides a free FOBT kit and pathology to all Australians aged 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74. Cancer Council urges all eligible Australians to participate. Screening kits usually arrive within six months of your birthday.
The program will be fully implemented by 2020, inviting all Australians aged 50 to 74 to screen every two years with a home FOBT. The Government's screening website has a timetable for the program's expansion.
For more program information, call the government Information Line on 1800 118 868 (9am - 5pm across Australia).
If you are not yet eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program but aged 50 or over, you should still have an FOBT every two years. This can be arranged through your doctor.
If you 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 the Cancer Council 13 11 20 or check our National Cancer Prevention Policy.