Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Australia.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program reduces illness and death from bowel cancer by helping detect the early signs of the disease using a free, simple test that can be done at home.
Bowel cancer often develops without any symptoms. The cancer can grow in the bowel for years before spreading to other parts of the body.
Very small amounts of blood can leak from these growths and pass into your faeces (poo). These tiny amounts of blood are not noticeable just by looking – that's where screening comes in.
According to a 2017 study by Cancer Council Australia, screening for bowel cancer can reduce deaths from the disease by between 15% and 25%.
These easy steps to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
Around your 50th birthday, you will get a pre-invitation letter in the mail. This letter tells you about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and why it’s important to screen. A few weeks later, you will get your invitation and test kit in the mail.
A few weeks later, you will get your invitation and test kit in the mail. Detailed instructions are included to explain how to do the bowel screening test.
The program sends out Eiken OC-Sensor kits. These high performance kits are used widely in Australia and overseas.
Follow the instructions in the test kit, then send your test back in the mail. If you need help with the instructions, call the Bowel Screening Test Kit Helpline on 1800 930 998.
Your test will go to a lab to be analysed.
Results are sent in the mail within 2 weeks of the lab receiving your kit to:
Your result will be either positive or negative. A positive result is not a cancer diagnosis, but you should see your GP. Read more about understanding your results.
You will get another invitation and free test kit in the mail every 2 years until your 74th birthday. It’s important that you do the test and send it back every time. This is because cancer can grow slowly and your body changes over time, so you need to keep screening regularly.
If you have any concerns about bowel cancer after your 74th birthday, we encourage you to see your GP.