Screen helps catch bowel can­cer early

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Health -

BOWEL can­cer is Aus­tralia’s sec­ond most com­mon cause of can­cer death, but re­as­sur­ingly, most cases can be cured if de­tected early.

Aus­tralians aged 50 to 74 can ac­cess a free bowel can­cer screen­ing test ev­ery two years.

How­ever, only about one-quar­ter of el­i­gi­ble peo­ple take up the test­ing.

Bowel can­cer de­vel­ops when cells in the bowel grow too rapidly, form­ing a clump known as a polyp.

Polyps are usu­ally harm­less, but most bowel can­cers de­velop from these tiny lumps af­ter sev­eral years of growth.

Bowel can­cer can de­velop with min­i­mal warn­ing symp­toms.

When symp­toms are present, they in­clude rec­tal bleed­ing, a re­cent and per­sis­tent change in bowel habit, un­ex­plained tired­ness, or ab­dom­i­nal pain.

If you have symp­toms, you should see your doc­tor.

Screen­ing seeks to iden­tify bowel can­cer in peo­ple who don’t have symp­toms, aim­ing to find can­cers early when they are eas­ier to treat and cure.

Bowel can­cer can grow on the bowel wall for sev­eral years be­fore spread­ing to other parts of the body.

Of­ten, mi­cro­scopic amounts of blood leak from these growths and pass into the stool be­fore any symp­toms de­velop.

Bowel can­cer screen­ing in­volves pa­tients col­lect­ing a stool sam­ple and then us­ing the Fae­cal Oc­cult Blood Test (FOBT) to de­tect in­vis­i­ble traces of blood.

The screen­ing test can­not di­ag­nose bowel can­cer but the re­sults will in­di­cate whether a fur­ther test (usu­ally a colonoscopy) is needed to rule out bowel can­cer.

If you’re aged 50 to 74, you should re­ceive your screen­ing in­vi­ta­tion and free test kit in the post around the time of your birth­day.

Once you have col­lected your stool sam­ple, send them to the pathol­ogy lab­o­ra­tory in the re­ply­paid en­ve­lope pro­vided.

If you have symp­toms, see your doc­tor. And if not and you’re aged 50 to 74 years, don’t be em­bar­rassed, test your poo – it could save your life!

Dr Tom Milden­hall, Prac­tice di­rec­tor

GPS on Bayview.

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