Faecal Occult Blood, Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Bowel cancer is now the commonest cause of cancer-related death in Australia. The screening program will utilize the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit, which detects the presence of microscopic amounts of blood in faecal material.

Every year about 12,600 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed and about 4,700 people die from the disease.

Studies carried out overseas and here in Australia have suggested that this mortality rate will be reduced by up to 33% by population-wide screening.

Benign and cancerous tumours in the bowel tend to bleed, and this blood is detected by the FOBT.  A positive FOBT result means that blood has been detected, a negative result means that there is no evidence of blood present.

The results from research studies suggest that a person with a positive result has a 45% chance of having an adenoma (a benign, but potentially pre-cancerous, tumour) and a 5% chance of having an actual cancer.

Other benign conditions, such as haemorrhoids, account for the remaining 50%.