Understanding your bowel screening test results

Find out what your bowel screening test results mean and what action you should take if you have a positive result.

Your result from the bowel screening test will usually arrive within 2 weeks from when you posted it to us. Results can be negative, positive or inconclusive.

Negative test result

A negative test result means that no blood was found in your samples and you don’t need to take any further action for now.

A negative result does not mean that you don’t have bowel cancer or that you will never develop bowel cancer. This is because:

  • some bowel cancers don’t bleed, or only bleed sometimes
  • the bowel cancer screening test detects most (up to 85%) but not all bowel cancers

This is why it’s important to do the screening test every 2 years between 50 and 74.

See an example negative result letter.

What happens next

If you have a negative test result, you don’t need to do anything. You will get another invitation to do the test in 2 years.

If you start having symptoms of bowel cancer, even after a negative test result, see your GP straight away.

Positive test result

A positive test result means that 20 micrograms or more of haemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells) per gram of poo was found in both your test samples.

A positive result does not always mean you have bowel cancer. There are lots of reasons you could have blood in your poo, and most of these are not related to cancer.

See an example positive result letter.

What happens next

If you have a positive test result, you should see your GP to find out what’s causing the bleeding. Your GP will probably refer you to a specialist to have a procedure called a colonoscopy.

For more details, read the colonoscopy information brochure. You will also get this brochure in the mail if you have a positive test result.

For more on what you can expect before, during and after a colonoscopy, see colonoscopy: what you need to know.

Inconclusive test result

If you haven't received your results within 2 weeks, it may be because they were inconclusive. This means the lab can’t analyse your sample. We will send you another test kit within 4 to 10 weeks, so you can do the test again.

An inconclusive test result doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. It just means the lab was not able to analyse the sample.

This can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • the tube may have contained too much sample
  • only one sample was provided
  • the samples were damaged
  • the kit was expired
  • samples were received more than 14 days after the date of the first sample
  • there were no collection dates on the tubes or participant details form.

Recording results

The National Cancer Screening Register collects and monitors information about your screening, including test results. The register's privacy statement outlines how they handle this information.

Contact

Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline

Contact the Test Kit Helpline for help doing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program test. They will talk you through it, step by step.

View contact

Last updated: 
29 June 2021

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