Finding bowel cancer early

Get checked iconBowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) can often be found at an early stage when treatment is more likely to cure the disease.


Screening for bowel cancer

Bowel cancer screening involves testing people without any obvious symptoms of bowel cancer. Screening with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is recommended for healthy people aged over 50.

More about FOBTs and where to get one

Who's at risk?

Bowel cancer can occur at any age, but the risk is greater if you're over 50.

Your risk of bowel cancer also increases if you:

If these factors apply to you, talk to your doctor about your risk of bowel cancer.

Try the Bowel Cancer Risk Calculator to help you identify things that may increase your risk of bowel cancer. It will also indicate your risk of bowel cancer based on your personal and family history of polyps and cancer.

Reduce your risk of bowel cancer

You can help to reduce your risk of bowel cancer by:

If you follow this advice, it doesn't mean you'll never get bowel cancer, but it can reduce your risk and has other health benefits too.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Not all bowel cancers show symptoms but you should see your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • bleeding from your back passage or any sign of blood in a bowel motion
  • an unexplained and persistent change in bowel actions: for example, looser or more frequent bowel motions or becoming severely constipated
  • the feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • unexplained tiredness
  • lower abdominal pain or a persistent feeling of fullness.

Usually there's a simple explanation for these symptoms, but if you do have bowel cancer, it's best to find it early.

Updated: 14 Jan, 2016