1. Initial investigations and referral
If you are over 50 years old, you can participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program every two years using a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). This is a simple test you can do at home that looks for the early signs of bowel cancer.
If you have blood in your faeces, a change in bowel habit, an unexplained abdominal pain or mass, or unexplained weight loss, tell your general practitioner (GP) as soon as possible. Your GP will assess your symptoms, conduct a physical examination and arrange any blood tests needed.
Your GP should also discuss your needs (including physical, psychological, social and information needs) and recommend sources of reliable information and support.
Potential tests you may have:
- Physical examination (may include digital rectal examination): The doctor inserts a gloved finger in the anus and checks for problems in the anus and rectum.
- Blood tests: You may have a blood test to assess your general health and to look for signs that you are losing blood in your stools.
If bowel cancer is suspected, you will be referred to a specialist for further testing within four weeks. Your GP will provide the specialist with information about your medical history, whether there is a history of cancer in your family, and your test results.
It can be helpful to bring a family member or friend with you to your appointments.