Who should do the bowel screening test

If you are between 50 and 74 years of age, you will be invited to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Find out if you should do the test.

Should you do the test?

Age is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer, so even healthy people should do the test.

The program is for both men and women who have no symptoms.

Don’t do the test if:

  • you are a woman and you have your period, or you finished your period less than 3 days ago
  • you have haemorrhoids (piles) that are bleeding
  • you have recently had a colonoscopy
  • you have blood in your urine, poo, or in the toilet bowl – talk to your GP if this happens

If you have symptoms, or a family history of bowel cancer, please talk to your GP.

When you will be invited

If you haven't yet done a bowel screening test, you will be invited to screen when you turn 50, 52, 54 and so on – every 2 years until you turn 74. When you turn 74, you will receive your final test kit from the program.

You should receive an invitation around the time of your birthday, but it may be up to 6 months after. If you live in hotter areas of Australia, you will receive an invitation during the cooler months of the year.

If you don’t do the test you will be invited again around your birthday 2 years later.  If you do the test and get a negative result you will be invited again 2 years from the date of your test result.

The program does not call you to offer free screening. Your invitation will be sent to the address listed in your Medicare record.

If you're outside the age range of 50 to 74

The program is for people aged 50 to 74 years because this group of the Australian population is at highest risk of bowel cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Guidelines recommend bowel screening every 2 years from age 50. This age range is similar to bowel cancer screening programs around the world.

The program ends at age 74 because the risk of complications during screening follow up procedures like colonoscopies is higher in older people.

If you are outside the program’s target age group and have concerns about bowel cancer or bowel habits please speak with your GP. They can advise you about other bowel screening kits available to the general public.

If you haven’t received a letter

If you don’t get a letter within 6 months of your 50th birthday, check that your Medicare details are up to date, and call our contact centre.

If you’re overseas

We only collect screening test results that have been performed in Australia. Visit the National Cancer Screening Register website to defer your screening date or opt out of the program while you are overseas. When you return to Australia you can opt back in at any time.

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: 
22 March 2021

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