How bowel screening works

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

Overdue for screening or need a replacement kit?

Request a new kit

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

1. When you will be invited

After turning 50, you will get a letter in the mail telling you about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, and why it’s important to screen. The letter will also let you know that you will be getting your free bowel screening kit in the mail soon.

You will automatically get a free test kit in the mail when you are due to screen:

  • starting after you turn 50
  • continuing every 2 years from when you completed your last test – until you turn 74.

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

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

Next, you get your free test kit in the mail. This may arrive several weeks after your pre-invite letter, depending on where you live. 

You can also ask your doctor about getting the free bowel screening kit.

A hot zone policy means people who live in hotter parts of Australia are mailed kits in the cooler months. This is because exposure of your collected samples to high heat can impact test results.

If you are due to screen but don’t have your kit because of the hot zone policy, your doctor can override it if they think it will be beneficial. You must be able to keep your samples cool by following the test instructions. Talk with your doctor who can:

  1. request a kit to be mailed to you by contacting the National Cancer Screening Register
  2. give you a kit directly if they are taking part in the alternative access to kits model.  

About the test kit

The program sends out Eiken OC-Sensor kits. These are used widely in Australia and overseas. This is what the test kit packaging looks like:

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.

Request a replacement kit

If you lose your kit or it expires you can get a replacement kit from the National Cancer Screening Register by:

The new kit should arrive 4 to 10 weeks after your request.

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.


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

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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