Do the test when it comes in the post.

Why test for bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. It kills more people in NSW than prostate cancer, breast cancer or melanoma. Despite this, currently only 38% of eligible people in NSW take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (the Program).

The Program is an Australian Government initiative that sends out free bowel cancer screening tests to eligible Australians aged 50-74 every two years. Bowel cancer screening can detect cancers at an earlier stage when treatment can be more successful.

If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases.

If detected early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases.

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (the Program) is an Australian government initiative that sends out free bowel cancer screening tests to all eligible Australians aged 50-74. The test will be posted to you every two years around the time of your birthday.

When will I get my free bowel cancer screening test?

Enter your date of birth to see when you’re due to receive your free bowel screening test.

How do I do the test?

The bowel cancer screening test is easy-to-do and can be completed in the comfort of your own home.

  1. Collect samples of your bowel motions (poo): The test comes with an instruction sheet that explains how to do this. Samples should be collected from different bowel motions (poos), as close together as possible, so either on the same day or within three days of taking the first sample.
  2. Send the samples for testing: Once you have collected your samples, put them in the reply paid envelope provided together with your Participant Details Form, and send the envelope in the post.
  3. Get the results: The samples are processed and the results are sent to you, and your nominated doctor or health service within two weeks.

See how to do the test.

See how to do the test video.

How does the test work?

The bowel cancer screening test is a clean and simple test that you do at home, which looks for very small amounts of blood in the bowel motion (faeces or poo) that may be a sign of bowel cancer or other bowel problems. It is known as an immunochemical faecal occult blood test or iFOBT.

Bowel cancer can develop without any symptoms. The test can detect microscopic amounts of blood in the bowel motion, which can be a sign of bowel cancer. The test can’t show what is causing the blood to be there.

Blood in your bowel motion may be due to cancer or other conditions, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel.

If your result is positive you will be asked to contact your doctor, who may recommend further tests to find out the cause of the bleeding.

How bowel cancer starts.

A diagram of the human bowel with the stomach, transverse colon, ascending colon, cecum, appendix, anus, rectum, small intestine and descending colon labelled.

The large intestine (or large bowel) is made up of the colon, rectum and anus. The term "bowel cancer" refers to cancers which start in the colon or rectum.

Bowel cancer occurs when cells in the bowel lining become abnormal. These cells divide and grow. They usually form a polyp first, which may become a cancer over time.

Age matters.

Anyone can get bowel cancer, but the biggest risk factor is increasing age. In NSW, 93% of bowel cancers are found in people aged 50 years and over. This is why men and women aged 50 – 74 should get checked for bowel cancer every two years.

The risk of bowel cancer is higher if you:

  • are aged 50 years and over
  • have an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis
  • have previously had special types of polyps, called adenomas, in the bowel
  • have a strong family history of bowel cancer or polyps.

Bowel cancer personal stories.

Jane's story about the test video.

Jane's story about the test.

Alan's story of early detection video.

Alan's story of early detection.

FAQs /
Frequently
Answered
Questions.

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a free Australian Government initiative that aims to reduce bowel cancer deaths through early detection of the disease.

Learn more about the program.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening program is low.

Visit indigenous bowel screening.

To be eligible for a free test you must:

  • have a Medicare Entitlement type of either:
    • Australian citizen
    • Permanent resident
  • have a current Medicare card or be registered as a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) customer
  • have a mailing address in Australia
  • be in the right age group (enter your date of birth in the tool above to find out when you are due to receive your test).

If you meet these criteria you are automatically registered for the Program. Screening tests are sent to your address as recorded by Medicare or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs so it’s important to keep this information up-to-date.

How to update my address.

If you need a new test sent to you, call the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Infoline: 1800 118 868.

There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer, including:

  • do the test every two years between the ages of 50-74 when it arrives in the post
  • quit smoking
  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • be active and sit less
  • eat a healthy diet.

Anyone with concerns about their risk of developing bowel cancer should talk to their doctor.

You can find additional resources for health professionals and communities here, and here.

The upper age limit of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is based on the chance of finding bowel cancer in someone without symptoms compared to the risk of problems from further tests (such as colonoscopy).

Serious complications from colonoscopy are uncommon. However, perforation of the bowel is a possible complication, and the risk of this is higher in older people. The risks of screening for people aged 75 to 85 years who have been screened seem to be higher than the benefits.

If you’re aged 75 years or older, and are concerned about bowel cancer, you should talk to your doctor about the need for future screening.

You should talk to your doctor about whether to complete the screening test if you:

  • have had a bowel condition in the last 12 months which is currently under treatment
  • have recently had a colonoscopy
  • are scheduled for a colonoscopy in the next few weeks.

Screening checks the health of your colon. If you have a functioning colon (that is, you have not had your colon removed) you should continue with bowel screening. People with no functioning colon do not need to be screened. If you’re uncertain, speak to your doctor.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women in NSW. In NSW, one in 13 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime. It is most common in people aged 50 years and over.

To receive a free bowel cancer screening test you must meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above. If you believe you should have received a test or if you have lost it, please contact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Infoline: 1800 118 868 and you may be able to request a new one.

Resources.

Bowel cancer resources.

Learn how-to do the test

Watch a video from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Learn more about the test experience

Hear people’s experiences of taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Screening resources.

Discover more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Read about how the Program works

Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Discover how bowel cancer can affect you and your community

Resources for health professionals

Learn about the benefits of screening, the current participation rate in NSW and best practice tips

Contact details.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Infoline

1800 118 868
8:30am - 5pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays)

Mailing address

NBCSP Register,
Reply Paid 83245,
Canberra BC
ACT 2610

The Test Kit.

  1. Instructions
  2. 2 x toilet liners
  3. 2 x collection tubes
  4. 1 x ziplock bag
  5. 1 x Reply Paid envelope

To see how to do the test watch the video.