National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program aims to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by detecting the early signs of the disease. Eligible Australians from 50 to 74 years of age are sent a free, simple test that is done at home. Find out how the program works and how to do the test.
Information about coronavirus (COVID-19)
We are closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. We are taking advice from our clinical expert advisory groups on how best to manage each program as the pandemic continues.
Find out what it means for you as a:
Get all your questions answered
Call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701 to:
- find out when you'll receive your free bowel cancer screening test in the mail
- update your contact details
- opt out or delay
- ask for a replacement kit.
You can call Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm, except national public holidays.
Bowel cancer screening can save your life.
When it's detected early, 9 out of 10 cases can be treated successfully.
The chance of getting bowel cancer increases from the age of 50. That's why Australians aged between 50 and 74 will receive a free test kit in the mail every two years.
People who've done the test say it's quick, clean and easier than they expected.
You'll receive an envelope in the mail that will include everything you need to do the test, including your Participant Details form, two flushable toilet liners, two labelled collection tubes, a Ziplock bag, a Reply-Paid envelope and easy-to-follow instructions.
The test is looking for invisible traces of blood in your poo, which could be a sign of cancer or a pre-cancerous growth. All you need to do is collect 2 tiny samples from 2 separate poos. Collect the 2 samples as close together as possible, this can be on the same day, the next day, or as soon as you can.
Take 1 collection tube and write your name, date of birth, and the date you are taking the sample on the white label. Place it within easy reach of the toilet. Do a wee and flush the toilet. Then take one of the flushable toilet liners and lay it over the water in the toilet bowl. This will catch your poo.
Once you have done a poo, the next step is to open the collection tube by twisting the green cap. Scrape the tip of the stick, attached to the cap, over different areas of the surface of the poo. You only need a tiny sample, 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. Make sure you don't open it again. You can now flush the toilet as normal. The toilet liner is biodegradable. Place the tube into the Ziplock bag and store it somewhere cool. A fridge is ideal, but do not freeze the sample.
When you're ready to take your next sample, repeat the process using the second collection tube. This can be on the same day, the next day, or as soon as you can. Once you're done, seal the Ziplock bag with the 2 tubes in it and put the bag in the fridge.
Now you're ready for the final step.
Fill out your Participant Details form, then put it in the Reply Paid envelope, along with the Ziplock bag containing your 2 samples. Make sure you read the checklist on the back of the envelope before sealing it. Write your name and address on the back of the envelope and sign the front.
Now all you need to do is mail the samples, within 24 hours if you can.
Postage is free.
The samples can be affected by heat, so make sure you don't leave them in a hot car or direct sunlight. For this reason, it's best if you can drop them to your local post office as soon as possible after they are removed from the fridge. If you do have to use an Australia Post mail box, please post them in the late afternoon, before 6pm.
Your samples will be sent to the laboratory and your results will be mailed to you in around 2 weeks.
If you receive a negative result, this means that no blood was found in your samples. You won't need to do anything else until your next test in 2 years' time. However, if you develop symptoms in the meantime, talk to your doctor.
If you receive a positive test result, this means that traces of blood were found in your samples. This could be due to conditions other than cancer, and it's important to make an appointment with your doctor to investigate.
If you have questions about how to do the test, call 1800 930 998.
Doing the home test kit
Eligible Australians aged between 50 and 74 years of age will receive a free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit in the mail. When it’s detected early, 9 out of 10 cases can be treated successfully.
For health professionals and providers
Joan’s story – I do everything right and I still had bowel cancer
Ernest’s story – Gugu mugu do, just do it
Sharon’s story – Don’t make it too late
Health sector resources
Review of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
Submissions to the Review of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program closed on 8 January 2021. The review is due to be completed in mid-2021. Key findings and recommendations will be provided to the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt and are expected to inform the future strategic direction of the program.
More information about the Review can be found on our Consultation Hub.
Related initiatives and programs
This pilot program encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the bowel screening test. It provided resources for families and communities, and primary health care professionals participating in the pilot program. We're working on a new way to distribute kits based on the results.
The BreastScreen Australia Program aims to reduce illness and death from breast cancer by detecting the disease early. Women aged 50 to 74 years of age are invited to have a free screening mammogram every 2 years.
The National Cervical Screening Program reduces illness and death from cervical cancer. Women aged 25 to 74 years of age are invited to have a cervical screening test every 5 years.