Do the bowel test. It could save your life.


Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia (not including non-melanoma skin cancer) and around 14,000 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year in Australia.

If detected early, the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival improves significantly.

What symptoms you should watch out for?

According to Bowel Cancer Australia, it’s important to note that not all bowel cancers show symptoms (and not all symptoms are a sign of Bowel cancer) but you should see your doctor if you notice:

  • bleeding in, or any sign of blood after a bowel motion
  • a change in usual bowel habit, such as straining (constipation) to go to the toilet or loose motions (diarrhoea)
  • abdominal pain or bloating
  • weight loss for no obvious reason, or loss of appetite
  • symptoms of anaemia, including unexplained tiredness, weakness or breathlessness.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can be at risk of developing bowel cancer, however, the risk greatly increases with age, particularly from age 50. You are also at greater risk if you have:

  • a previous history of polyps in the bowel
  • a previous history of bowel cancer
  • chronic inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease)
  • a strong family history of bowel cancer
  • increased insulin levels or type 2 diabetes.

The good news.

Bowel cancer can be detected early and treated with great success. 

If you are over 50 you should have a home faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every 2 years. It is a simple test that looks for hidden traces of blood in a bowel motion.

If it does detect blood you will usuasally be sent for a colonoscopy, to establish the cause.

The National Bowel Screening Program is offered free FOBTs to all Australians aged 50-74 every two years. The FOBT test kit will be sent directly to your home and you should receive one within about six months of your birthday. For more information visit

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