National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program aims to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by detecting the early signs of the disease. Eligible Australians from 50 to 74 years of age are sent a free, simple test that is done at home. Find out how the program works and how to do the test.

Learn about the program

Understand why it's important to have regular bowel screening tests.

Find out if you're eligible

Check to see if you should do the bowel screening test.

Getting a bowel screening test

Find out what's involved in having a bowel screening test.

Understand what your results mean

Learn what your bowel screening results mean and what happens next.

Get all your questions answered

Call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701 to:

  • find out when you'll receive your free bowel cancer screening test in the mail
  • update your contact details
  • opt out or delay
  • ask for a replacement kit.

You can call Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm, except national public holidays.

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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.

Doing the home test kit

Eligible Australians aged between 50 and 74 years of age will receive a free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit in the mail. When it’s detected early, 9 out of 10 cases can be treated successfully.

Find out how to do the test

Erik took the bowel cancer screening test – it saved his life

Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and the second leading cause of cancer-related death. It claims the lives of over 5,000 Australians a year. Regular screening is important to detect it early, so take the free bowel cancer test – it could save your life.

Find out more

Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline

1800 930 998

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

For health professionals and providers

Your role in the program

Find out how you can support and encourage participation in the screening program.

Managing participants with special conditions

Find out which patients may not need to participate in the bowel cancer screening program.

Reporting to the NCSR

Find out what's involved in reporting participant information to the National Cancer Screening Register.

Public resources

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Top 3 questions – Bowel Cancer Screening with Professor Michael Kidd

This Bowel Cancer Awareness month hear from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd on the importance of completing your simple, free bowel cancer screening test.
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Bruce’s story – We want to see our grandkids when we get older

Bruce is a Noongar man from Perth. In this video he encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program test as soon as it arrives in the mail.
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Sharon’s story – Don’t make it too late

Sharon, an Aboriginal health worker from Darwin, shares the story of how bowel cancer affected her family, after her father was diagnosed in 2014. Sharon encourages people to use the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit.
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How to do the test – Indigenous bowel screening video

This video for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people explains how to do the bowel cancer screening test. The test is part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Health sector resources

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program – Checklist for talking with your patients

This checklist includes all the key items health professionals should cover when talking to patients about bowel screening. These activities do not all need to be carried out by one health professional or all at the same time.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program – Alternative access to bowel screening kits guide

This guide includes the key steps health professionals and practice staff need to implement and promote bowel cancer screening in your practice. Read this short guide before you order kits for the first time.

Increasing bowel cancer screening – tips for patient outreach

This fact sheet for health professionals explains how to increase participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Understanding bowel screening – Flip chart guide for Indigenous people

The flip chart is designed to be used by health professionals talking with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about bowel screening. It can be used with small groups or with a single person.

Review of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

In 2020, the Department of Health commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake an independent review of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

More information about the Review can be found on our Consultation Hub.

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