Bowel screening information for Indigenous families and communities
A simple, free test can help find bowel changes early. Catching bowel cancer early can save the lives of elders who hold a community's knowledge, stories and culture. Find out who can get the test and how to do it.
A simple test could save your life
Bowel cancer can develop without any symptoms. If found early, it can usually be treated successfully.
There is a simple test to help find bowel changes early. The test can find tiny amounts of blood in your poo, long before you would notice any changes.
Some people think doing a bowel screening test is shameful or embarrassing. It’s not shame, it’s a part of life. The real shame is if you don’t do the test and then later, you’re not around for your family.
Don’t delay, do a bowel test today.
Who can do the test
If you are between 50 and 74 years old, you will get a free bowel cancer test from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) every 2 years.
The test comes to you in the mail after you turn 50, or you can ask your Indigenous health service about it and they can order you a kit from the National Cancer Screening Register. You will then get a test every 2 years after your last screening test is completed, until you turn 75.
Do the test, even if you feel well. It could save your life.
How to do the test
SA Health has information on how to do the test for:
- Aboriginal women
- Aboriginal men.
Cancer Australia has a range of resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and health professionals.
The national bowel cancer screening kit contains:
- 2 toilet liners (these liners are put into the toilet with the writing facing up to catch the poo)
- 2 collection tubes
- 1 ziplock bag
- a reply paid envelope, and
- instructions on how to do the test.
How to do the test.
Step 1 – Prepare
On one of the tube labels, write your
- full name
- date of birth
- date you take the sample.
Before collecting your sample, do a wee and flush the toilet.
Put the toilet liner over the water in the toilet bowl. The writing should be facing up.
If the toilet liner sinks, it’s still ok to take the sample, or you can request a new kit.
Step 2 – Collect
Do your poo onto the toilet liner.
Open the collection tube by twisting the green cap.
Scrape the tip of the stick over different areas of the surface of the poo. The sample only needs to be tiny – smaller than a grain of rice.
Put the stick back into the collection tube and click the lid shut.
Shake the tube up and down several times. Do not remove the stick again.
Flush the toilet liner and poo down the toilet.
Wash your hands.
Step 3 – Store and repeat
Place the tube into the ziplock bag.
Put the sample in the fridge. Do not freeze.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 with the second collection tube when you do another poo (on the same day, the next day, or as soon as possible).
Step 4 – Send
Complete the Participant Details form.
Write your name and address on the back of the Reply Paid envelope and sign the front.
Put the Participant Details form and the 2 collection tubes (in the sealed ziplock bag) into the Reply Paid envelope and seal it.
Take the envelope to a post office within 24 hours, or mail in the late afternoon (before 6pm) using an Australia Post mailbox.
The samples must remain cool, so do not leave them in a hot place such as a car.
You can also read our page on how to do the test.
You will get your results in the mail. If your health centre gave you the test kit, they will also get a copy of your results.
If you get a positive result
A positive result means that blood was found in your poo sample. We send a letter to you and your doctor if your result is positive.
If blood is found, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. There can be other reasons why you might have blood in your poo, and your doctor would need to find out why.
SA Health has 2 flip charts for Aboriginal men and women about what happens next if your result is positive.
The next test is called a colonoscopy. A fact sheet and video explains this test: Colonoscopy resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Stories and songs
Our collection of resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities contains:
- a video, flyer and posters about bowel screening
- videos of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people sharing their stories about how doing the test can save lives
- community songs about how doing the bowel cancer test can save the lives of elders who hold the community's knowledge, stories and culture.
This collection contains resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).
Help with the test
If you need help with the test, you can call the helpline or ask your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker.