Bowel screening information for Indigenous families and communities

A simple, free test can help detect the early signs of bowel cancer. It can save the lives of elders who hold community knowledge, stories and culture. Find out who can get the test and how to do it.

A simple test could save your life

Bowel cancer can develop without any obvious symptoms. The simple test is easy to do and helps detect early signs of bowel cancer by looking for tiny amounts of blood in your poo.

If found early, it can usually be treated successfully.

Some people think doing a bowel screening test is shameful or embarrassing. It’s not shame, it’s a part of life.

Stay healthy and strong for your family and do the free bowel screening test.

Who can do the test

If you are between 50 and 74 years old, you will get a free bowel cancer screening test from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program every 2 years.  

The test comes to you in the mail after you turn 50, or you can ask your Indigenous health service about it. Your health service can also give you a kit directly. You will then get another test kit every 2 years after your last screening test is completed, until you turn 75.

Do the test, even if you feel well. It could save your life.

How to do the test

The test is free and simple to do at home.

To do the test:

  1. Collect 2 tiny samples from 2 different poos
  2. Put the samples in the plastic bag provided and keep them cool
  3. Complete the form and put it with the samples in the reply-paid envelope
  4. Post it as soon as possible

Read more on how to do the test.

2:02

The national bowel cancer screening kit contains:

  • 2 toilet liners (these liners are put into the toilet with the writing facing up to catch the poo)
  • 2 collection tubes
  • 1 ziplock bag
  • a reply paid envelope, and
  • instructions on how to do the test.

How to do the test.

Step 1 – Prepare

On one of the tube labels, write your

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • date you take the sample.

Before collecting your sample, do a wee and flush the toilet.

Put the toilet liner over the water in the toilet bowl. The writing should be facing up.

If the toilet liner sinks, it’s still ok to take the sample, or you can request a new kit.

Step 2 – Collect

Do your poo onto the toilet liner.

Open the collection tube by twisting the green cap.

Scrape the tip of the stick over different areas of the surface of the poo. The sample only needs to be tiny – 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. Do not remove the stick again.

Flush the toilet liner and poo down the toilet.

Wash your hands.

Step 3 – Store and repeat

Place the tube into the ziplock bag.

Put the sample in the fridge. Do not freeze.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 with the second collection tube when you do another poo (on the same day, the next day, or as soon as possible).

Step 4 – Send

Complete the Participant Details form.

Write your name and address on the back of the Reply Paid envelope and sign the front.

Put the Participant Details form and the 2 collection tubes (in the sealed ziplock bag) into the Reply Paid envelope and seal it.

Take the envelope to a post office within 24 hours, or mail in the late afternoon (before 6pm) using an Australia Post mailbox.

The samples must remain cool, so do not leave them in a hot place such as a car.

Help with the test

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.

Getting your results

You will get your results in the mail within 4 weeks. Your results will also be sent to the healthcare provider you nominated on the participant details form you returned with your kit.

A positive result means that blood was found in your poo.

It doesn’t mean you have cancer. There can be other reasons why you might have blood in your poo, and you should meet with your doctor as soon as you can to discuss next steps to find out why.

Your doctor may recommend a procedure called a colonoscopy. A fact sheet and video explains this test: Colonoscopy resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Stories and resources

SA Health has information on bowel screening for Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men.

Cancer Australia also has a range of bowel screening resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and health professionals.

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