Bowel cancer (also known as colon cancer) is common in Australia and the western world. Approximately 1 out of 20 people will develop a bowel cancer in their lifetime and there are approximately 13,000 new cases diagnosed in Australia every year. This number is increasing every year.

Even though this is a very common problem, it is relatively uncommon in people younger than 40 years of age. Less than 1% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 35. However, it becomes much more common in people over the age of 50 years.

Essentially, bowel cancer screening is testing a group of people (who have an increased risk due to their age) for bowel cancer even though they have no symptoms at all. In Australia, bowel cancer screening is offered through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to all people 50 years and older.

If you have symptoms that you have noticed yourself, such as visible bleeding or a major change in your bowel habit, you should not complete a screening test, but rather, see your GP directly for a review.

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