Top 3 questions – Bowel Cancer Screening with Professor Michael Kidd

This Bowel Cancer Awareness month hear from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd on the importance of completing your simple, free bowel cancer screening test.

Date published:
General public

Hello. My name is Professor Michael Kidd, I'm Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government Department of Health.

This month is National Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. And so I want to talk to you about the importance of screening for bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is common. It's actually the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and the second leading cause of death from cancer among people in Australia. But the good news is that if it's diagnosed early enough, more than 90% of cases of bowel cancer can be successfully treated. So, very important that we are screening people for bowel cancer.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program involves sending out a bowel cancer screening test kit to everyone in Australia aged between 50 and 74 years, and the test kit is sent out every two years. And so every time you receive a test kit, we ask that you take the time to collect the specimens which are needed and post them back so that you can be screened for bowel cancer. The screening kit contains instructions on how to take the specimens. Basically, you need to take two very small specimens of your poo from two separate bowel actions. You take them using a little swab, you put them in the tube, which is provided with the test kit, and you put them in the envelope which comes with the test kit and post them back so that they can be tested. We're testing for traces of blood in your poo, and this can be an early sign of bowel cancer. And often these traces are microscopic. So, you may not have noticed any blood in your own bowel actions. Now, it is also important if you have any symptoms or signs of possible bowel cancer that you consult with your GP very urgently. And the signs of bowel cancer can include noticing blood in your stools or when you go to the toilet, they can include either losing weight, being very fatigued, having a change in your bowel habit, either becoming constipated or developing prolonged diarrhoea, or some people may notice pain or even swelling in the abdomen or the stomach.

If you have any of these symptoms, please consult with your general practitioner. Also, there are some people who have a family history of bowel cancer. So, if you have a family history of bowel cancer, please talk to your general practitioner, make sure they're aware of it. And it may be appropriate for you to have screening for bowel cancer that starts earlier than at age 50. Remember that screening for bowel cancer can save lives. It may save your life. It may save the life of one of your loved ones. So, I urge you, get involved with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. And if you're aged between 50 and 74 and receive one of the kits in the mail, please collect the specimens and send them off. And that way, you'll know whether you need to be further tested to see if you have bowel cancer or not. You may be feeling really fit and healthy, but you may still have bowel cancer. So, please don't neglect doing the testing when the kits arrive at your place.

Thank you.

Top 3 questions

  • Why is bowel cancer screening important? 
  • What are the common signs and symptoms of bowel cancer? 
  • What should you do if you have a family history of bowel cancer?


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