Who should do the bowel screening test

If you are aged between 45 and 74, you can take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Find out if you should do the test.

Who is eligible for the program

Lowered eligible age for bowel screening

From 1 July 2024, people aged 45 to 49 can join the program and screen for free. You can request your first free kit by submitting the webform or calling 1800 627 701. All eligible people aged 45 to 74 can also ask their doctor about getting a kit.

Learn more about the change.

From 1 July 2024, you are eligible to do the screening test every 2 years if you:

  • are aged between 45 and 74
  • have a Medicare card and entitlement type of either Australian citizen, permanent migrant or registered as a Department of Veteran Affairs customer
  • have an Australian mailing address.

Should you do the test?

The test is for people who have no signs or symptoms of bowel cancer. This is because bowel cancer can develop without you noticing the early signs.

Age is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer, so even fit and healthy people should do the test. For people aged 45 to 74, doctors recommend doing an at-home screening test every 2 years.

The test is important because:

  • age is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer
  • over 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found early
  • regular screening could save your life.

Find out about doing the test.

If you have signs, symptoms, or a family history of bowel cancer, this test may not be suitable for you. You may not need to do the test if you have had a colonoscopy in the last two years or are seeing a doctor about bowel problems. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer can develop without you noticing the early signs. 

Early signs include:

  • blood in your poo or in the toilet bowl
  • changes in your normal toilet habits, such as:
    • looser poos
    • severe constipation
    • needing to poo more often than usual
  • stomach pain
  • fatigue
  • unexpected weight loss.

If you have any of these signs, it does not mean you have bowel cancer, but it is important to talk to your doctor.

The majority of bowel cancer cases occur in people aged over 45, but it can affect anyone. You should encourage family and friends to talk with their doctor if they are concerned.

If you are outside the age range of 45 to 74

The program is for people aged 45 to 74 years. 

For people outside the age range of 45 to 74, clinical guidance does not recommend a ‘one-size-fits-all’ population-scale approach to screening. Instead, clinical guidance recommends talking with your doctor about screening options. Your doctor is best placed to explain the benefits and potential harms of bowel screening in context of your individual health situation. Your doctor may recommend bowel screening available via Medicare. Bowel screening kits are also available for purchase at pharmacies or online.

More information on the effectiveness and harms and benefits of population-based bowel cancer screening, see the Clinical Guidelines for the prevention, early detection and management of colorectal cancer.

Manage your participation

Learn more about managing your participation.

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.
Date last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.