It’s been found that bowel cancer can develop without the presence of obvious known symptoms. Therefore if you’re someone at risk of developing the disease, it’s essential that you undergo bowel cancer screening.
This will usually take the form of a screening test called a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). We will cover this procedure, as well the other standard tests that exist in this article.
How Do You Get Screened For Bowel Cancer?
Because bowel cancer can develop without any obvious symptoms or warning signs, screening plays a vital role in the battle against this type of cancer.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, if you do have a form of bowel cancer then often small amounts of blood will leak from the cancerous growth and pass into bowel movements. These amounts of blood are so small they are often invisible to the naked eye.
However, they are detectable through what’s called a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). It’s important to note that this test alone cannot diagnose bowel cancer.
However, it’s an effective form of early diagnosis - which is crucial since 90% of bowel cancers can be effectively treated if discovered early.
The Importance Of Early Bowel Cancer Diagnosis: Nicole’s Story
Nicole Yarran was a 32 year old mother of two from Perth.
Whilst expecting her third child, a routine scan discovered bowel cancer that had spread to her liver.
Unfortunately, Nicole had been experiencing all of the common symptoms of bowel cancer for some time. According to Nicole’s mother, Kathy Narrier, she was losing a lot of weight, she had no energy, and was bleeding from the bowel.”
Her doctor dismissed the symptoms as irritable bowel syndrome, and prescribed medication for that particular illness.
Despite receiving cancer treatment, Nicole Yarran passed away in September, 2017.
Her story demonstrates the need to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer.
Remember that early detection is key to the successfully treating this type of cancer. Because 90% of bowel cancer cases can be effectively treated if diagnosed early.
How Is Bowel Cancer Diagnosed?
The Victorian Cancer Council lists six main tests for diagnosing bowel cancer in patients who’re presenting symptoms, or have had blood found in their stools from an FIT or FOBT test.
● A physical examination (looking for any swelling in your abdomen)
● An inspection of the anus by your doctor looking for swelling or lumps
● A blood test to look for anemia (as low red blood cell count as been linked to anemia)
● A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy
● Computed Tomography (CT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scan)
● Biopsy (where a sample of tissue is taken from the bowel wall for examination under microscope)
Using A Colonoscopy To Diagnose Bowel And Colon Cancer
A colonoscopy is the main test that is used to diagnose bowel cancer in both men and women.
It examines the whole length of the large bowel. However, it’s still possible that smaller polyps might be missed, especially if they’re hidden behind the bowels many folds, or if the bowel isn’t completely empty before the procedure.
Before the colonoscopy, your GP or gastroenterologist will brief you on what you need to do to empty or clean your bowel. This may include the use of laxatives, a diet change, and the consumption of clear fluids only.
It is also likely that you will be under anaesthetic during the procedure to prevent you from experiencing any discomfort.
The procedure lasts about 20-30 minutes, during which the doctor will insert a flexible tube with a camera on the end into your anus, and up into your rectum and colon.
The doctor will then look for abnormal tissue (such as polyps), and take a sample from the bowel wall (biopsy) for examination under microscope.
What Do Do If You Think You’re Experiencing Bowel Cancer Symptoms
If you’d like to learn more please feel free to book an appointment with one of our experienced gastroenterologists. You can also read through our Doctor’s Referral page, or call our staff to book an appointment that suits your needs. We have several convenient locations across Melbourne, with the latest tools and practices to help you get clarity on your health.
Bowel Cancer Australia
Bowel Cancer Australia
Cancer Council Victoria