It may not be the most proper of topics, but your poo might be able to save your life. Bowel cancer remains one of the most significant and life-threatening diseases in Australia, causing the highest number of cancer deaths, after lung cancer. But when detected early enough, patients with bowel cancer have a high chance of being cured. One in ten, or around 90%, of bowel cancer patients are cured if the disease is detected in its early stages. And the trick to this high percentage of curability? Bowel cancer screening.
Bowel cancer screening can detect early signs of bowel cancer through a FOBT (faecal occult blood test) or a colonoscopy. FOBT bowel cancer screening can be done in the privacy of your own home with a special test kit that you can buy from your local pharmacy.
You may also receive a kit in the post as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP). It is a painless procedure in which you collect two small stool samples using your collection kit. Your samples are then posted to the NBCSP laboratory for analysis, or your GP can arrange testing if you are not eligible to participate in the national screening program.
FOBT screening is recommended every one to two years for people aged 50 or over. Even if your test is negative, it is important that you keep rescheduling to keep checking your status. If your test is positive, your doctor will schedule a colonoscopy to rule out the presence of bowel cancer. If you would prefer not to do a faecal (poo) test, you can choose to have a colonoscopy every five years.
A colonoscopy is a relatively low-risk procedure performed by our very own specialist doctor: Dr Nathan Connelly in Melbourne. Dr Connelly performs the procedure using a thin flexible tube with a camera and light on the end, called a colonoscope, to examine your entire large bowel (colon). This allows him to search for small growths (polyps) on the lining of your colon. Because these benign growths can become cancerous if not removed, if a polyp is found during your colonoscopy, Dr Connelly will remove it, usually as a preventive measure. Polyps take 10-15 years to develop into cancer, which is why it is important to schedule a routine colonoscopy every 5-10 years.
Bowel cancer affects one person in 20 at some stage during their life but unfortunately is it impossible to predict who will develop bowel cancer and when. That is why it is strongly recommended that people with a family history of bowel cancer have regular check-ups and screenings.
If you wish to make a colonoscopy appointment or have a consultation regarding your bowel screening options, please contact our office on 03 9372 0372 or book online