How bowel screening works

Taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is free and easy. If found early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases. Do the free home test. It could save your life.

Aged 45 to 49 and want a kit? Overdue for screening, need a replacement kit or form?

Request your kit Download a participant details form

By following these easy steps you can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

1. When you will be eligible to screen

From 1 July 2024, we are lowering the eligible screening age for the program from 50 to 45 years. Learn more about the change.

All eligible people aged 45 to 74 can also ask their doctor about getting a kit. 

Your next test kit will automatically be mailed every 2 years after your last screening test is completed.

We get your address from Medicare. So, it’s important to make sure your address is up to date. You can update your address on the Services Australia website, or by calling Medicare on 132 011.

2. Get your test kit in the mail or from your doctor

You get your free test kit in the mail. You can also ask your doctor about getting the free bowel screening kit.

If you live in hotter areas of Australia, you will receive your kit during the cooler months of the year. This is because exposure of your collected samples to high heat can affect test results.

If you are due to screen but don’t yet have your kit because you live in a hot area of Australia: 

You must keep your samples cool by following the test instructions

3. Do the test and send it back

You just need to collect 2 tiny samples from 2 different poos. Then return them in the reply-paid envelope to the pathology lab.

The kit comes with instructions on how to do the bowel screening test. You can also watch a video on how to do the test or read test kit instructions in 22 languages.

If you need help using the kit, call the Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline on 1800 930 998.

4. Get your result

You and your doctor receive the result within 4 weeks. Your results are also sent to:

Your result will be either:

  • positive
  • negative
  • inconclusive.

A positive result is not a cancer diagnosis. But you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Read more about understanding your results.

5. Repeat every 2 years

You will automatically get another free test kit in the mail every 2 years from when you completed your last test until you turn 74.

It’s important 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.

If you have any concerns about bowel cancer screening after you turn 74, see your doctor to discuss your screening options.

Screening again after a colonoscopy

If you got a positive result from your last test, your doctor may have referred you for a colonoscopy.

If polyps or other growths ARE found during a colonoscopy, your doctor will advise on further testing and treatment and whether continuing bowel cancer screening is right for you.

If NO polyps or other growths are found during a colonoscopy, you will be notified that you can skip your next screening round and instead start screening again 4 years after your last colonoscopy.

This ‘skip round’ is based on current clinical advice. We will send you a letter about this skip round 2 years after you did your last test as a reminder. At this time, you can ask for a kit to be sent to you if you prefer not to skip a screening round.

Manage your participation

To manage your participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, you can:

  • update your address
  • nominate a healthcare provider
  • nominate a pseudonym (fake name)
  • add a personal representative
  • defer your next screening date
  • opt out or back in again
  • request a replacement bowel test kit.

To manage your participation in the program, you can:

Opt out

We know cancer screening saves lives. If you don’t want to be part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, you can opt out. This means you won’t get any more reminders or free test kits in the mail.

You can opt out for any reason. This includes if:

  • you already have regular screening or regular colonoscopies
  • your doctor has advised you not to take part
  • you are having treatment for cancer.

Defer

If you want to take a break from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, you can defer your screening date.

Reasons for deferring may include that you:

  • have recently done a bowel screening test or had a colonoscopy
  • have had advice from your doctor
  • are unwell
  • are travelling.

National Cancer Screening Register

Contact the National Cancer Screening Register to update your contact details or ask questions about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program or National Cervical Screening Program. You can call between 8 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday, except national public holidays, from anywhere in Australia.
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