How bowel screening works

Taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is free and easy. If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in most cases. Do the free home test kit when you get it in the mail – it could save your life.

Has your test kit expired or been misplaced?

Request a new kit

These easy steps to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

1. Pre-invitation

Around your 50th birthday, you will get a pre-invitation letter in the mail. This letter tells you about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and why it’s important to screen. A few weeks later, you will get your invitation and test kit in the mail.

The register obtains your primary address from Medicare. Find out how to update your address with Medicare on the Services Australia website, or by calling Medicare on 132 011.

2. Invitation and test kit

A few weeks later, you will get your invitation and test kit in the mail. Detailed instructions are included to explain how to do the bowel screening test.

About the test kit

The program sends out Eiken OC-Sensor kits. These high performance kits are used widely in Australia and overseas. This is what it looks like:

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program's home test kit

3. Do the test and send it back

Follow the instructions in the test kit, then send your test back in the mail. If you need help with the instructions, call the Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline on 1800 930 998.

Your test will go to a lab to be analysed.

4. Get results

Results are sent in the mail within 2 weeks of the lab receiving your kit to:

  • you
  • your GP or health service, if you nominated them on your participant details form
  • My Health Record, unless you ticked the box on your participant details form to tell us you don’t want this to happen or you have opted out of My Health Record
  • the National Cancer Screening Register.

Your result will be either positive or negative. A positive result is not a cancer diagnosis, but you should see your GP. Read more about understanding your results.

5. Repeat every 2 years

You will get another invitation and free test kit in the mail every 2 years until your 74th birthday. It’s important that you do the test and send it back every time. This is because cancer can grow slowly and your body changes over time, so you need to keep screening regularly.

If you have any concerns about bowel cancer after your 74th birthday, we encourage you to see your GP.

Requesting a replacement kit

If you lose your kit or it expires you can:

The new kit should arrive 4 to 10 weeks after your request.

Opt out or defer

Opt out

We know cancer screening saves lives. If you don’t want to be part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, you can complete the opt out form. Opting out means you won’t get any reminders or free test kits in the mail.

Reasons for opting out may include:

  • you have regular screening or regular colonoscopies because you have a higher risk of bowel cancer
  • your GP has advised you not to take part
  • you are having treatment for cancer
  • any other reason.

Defer

If you want to take a break from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, you can defer your screening date.

Reasons for deferring include:

  • you have recently done a bowel screening test or had a colonoscopy
  • you are getting advice from your GP
  • you are sick and can’t take part
  • you are travelling
  • any other reason.

National Cancer Screening Register contact

Contact the National Cancer Screening Register to update your contact details or if you have questions about either the National Bowel Cancer or National Cervical Screening Programs. You can call between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, except national public holidays, from anywhere in Australia.

View contact

Last updated: 
14 February 2022

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