Despite Australia having one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, two out of three people still reject invitations for a free screening test.

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a simple test that can be done at home. An FOBT can detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when it will be easier to treat and cure.

Even worse, the new figures show that many people with positive test results are not seeing a GP for follow-up. Although participation rates in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program increased from 33.4% in 2012 to 36% in 2014, more than 30% of patients with a positive result for their faecal occult blood test (FOBT) did not see a GP for follow-up.

Of the patients with a positive FOBT result who underwent colonoscopy, one in 25 were found to have a confirmed or suspected cancer, and one in 11 had an adenoma – a non-cancerous tumour.

In total, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program detected 748 bowel cancers among the 38,000 positive FOBT tests of 510,000 patients who took part in 2014.

Last Reviewed: 23/06/2015

Australian Doctor