How bowel screening works

Taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program involves 5 easy steps. You can choose to opt out or you may simply want to defer your screening for a period of time.

Follow these 5 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.

2. Invitation and test kit

The invitation letter and test kit have detailed instructions that tell you how to do the bowel screening test.

3. Do the test and send it back

Follow the instructions in the test kit, then send your test back in the mail. Your test will go to a lab to be analysed. If you need help with the instructions, call the Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline.

4. Get results

Results are sent in the mail within 2 weeks 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. Read more about understanding your results.

5. Repeat every 2 years

You will get another invitation and 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.

You will receive a letter with your last test before your 74th birthday as a reminder that you will not receive any more bowel screening kits in the future. If you have any concerns about bowel cancer, we encourage you to see your GP.

Opt out or defer if you don't want to participate

Opt out

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 test kits in the mail.

Reasons for opting out 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


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
Last updated: 
24 September 2020

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