How to do the bowel screening test

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program test kit is simple, free and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Just collect 2 tiny samples of your poo using the kit and mail them to the laboratory for testing.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program test kit is free and easy to do. You do the test in the privacy of your own home. Collect 2 tiny samples of your poo using the kit and mail them to the laboratory for testing. You will get your results after about 2 weeks.

If your test kit is damaged, expired or lost, phone the National Cancer Screening Register to ask for a new kit.

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.

Before you do the test

The test kit has clear instructions about how to do the bowel cancer screening test. Read these before you do the test.

You don’t need to change your diet or medication before collecting the samples.

What is in the kit

The kit contains everything needed to do the test:

  • 2 toilet liners
  • 2 collection tubes
  • 1 ziplock bag
  • 1 reply paid envelope

Doing the test

You need to collect 2 tiny samples from 2 separate bowel motions (poos) — one from each poo. Collect the 2 samples as close together as you can.

Store your samples between 2°C and 8°C (ideally in the fridge) until you mail them. Do not freeze your samples. Mail your samples to the laboratory for testing as soon as possible. 

Read our home test kit instructions for more details on doing the test.

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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.

If you need help

If you need help understanding the instructions, phone the test kit helpline. They will talk you through the test step by step.

Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline

Contact the Test Kit Helpline for help doing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program test. They will talk you through it, step by step.

Sending your test

Keep the samples in the fridge until you are ready to return them by mail.

Return your samples as soon as possible. If it takes longer than 14 days from when you take the first sample to when the laboratory receives it, you will be sent another kit and asked to do it again.

Complete the participant details form. Put the form and your samples in the reply paid envelope.

Samples need to stay cool for as long as possible. Place the envelope in a mailbox in the cooler part of the day or take it to a post office.

Getting your results

You should receive a letter with your test results within 4 weeks after you mail your samples back. Read more about understanding your results.

Your results will also be sent to:

  • your GP or health service, if you nominated one on the participant details form
  • My Health Record, unless you ticked the box on your participant details form to tell us you don’t want this to happen or you have opted out of My Health Record
  • the National Cancer Screening Register
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