Who should do the bowel screening test

If you are between 50 and 74 years of age, you will be invited to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Find out if you should do the test.

Should you do the test?

Age is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer, so even healthy people should do the test.

The program is for both men and women who have no symptoms.

Don’t do the test if:

  • you are a woman and you have your period, or you finished your period less than 3 days ago
  • you have haemorrhoids (piles) that are bleeding
  • you have recently had a colonoscopy
  • you have blood in your urine, poo, or in the toilet bowl – talk to your GP if this happens

If you have symptoms, or a family history of bowel cancer, please talk to your GP.

When you will be invited

The Program is a population-based screening program which is a form of screening where a test is offered to all individuals in a target population group. The objective of population screening is to improve disease outcome by detecting disease earlier than is usually the case in the absence of screening.

The Program’s target population is people aged between 50 to 74. You will be invited to screen when you turn 50, 52, 54 and so on – every 2 years until you turn 74. When you turn 74, you will receive your final test kit from the program.

You should receive an invitation around the time of your birthday, but it may be up to 6 months after. If you live in hotter areas of Australia, you will receive an invitation during the cooler months of the year.

If you don’t do the test you will be invited again around your birthday 2 years later.  If you do the test and get a negative result you will be invited again 2 years from the date of your test result.

If you're outside the age range of 50 to 74

The program is for people aged 50 to 74 years because this group of the Australian population is at highest risk of bowel cancer. 

As population screening is offered to healthy people, it must offer more benefit than harm to the target population and not cause harm that would not have otherwise occurred.

The Program ends at 74 as current population screening advice indicates that for people over the age of 74, the likelihood of complications from colonoscopies performed as part of population screening, exceeds the benefit of detecting bowel cancer through the program.

Further information on the effectiveness, including the harms and benefits of population-based bowel cancer screening, as set out in the Clinical Guidelines for the Prevention, Early Detection and Management of Colorectal Cancer, can be found online.

It is recommended that people who are not eligible for the Program but are concerned about bowel cancer, or who are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to bowel cancer, consult a healthcare provider who may recommend alternate screening kits and care pathways. 

If you’re overseas

We only collect screening test results that have been performed in Australia. Visit the National Cancer Screening Register website to defer your screening date or opt out of the program while you are overseas. When you return to Australia you can opt back in at any time.

National Cancer Screening Register contact

Contact the National Cancer Screening Register to update your contact details or if you have questions about either the National Bowel Cancer or National Cervical Screening Programs. You can call between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, except national public holidays, from anywhere in Australia.
Last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

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