What is the screening test?

Screening for bowel cancer involves a simple, at-home test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). This test looks for traces of blood in the poo which are invisible to the human eye and could be a sign of bowel cancer.

Envelope and contents of bowel screening home test kit.

Are you eligible?

If you’re between the age of 50 and 74, you’re eligible for a free bowel screening test every two years. 

You should not do the test if: 

  • You have your period or finished your period less than three 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 – if this happens, speak to a GP 

You should speak to a doctor if: 

For more information, visit the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program website.

Is the test free?

Yes. If you’re aged between 50 and 74 your two-yearly bowel test kit is free. You will receive a free bowel test kit in the mail every two years. The pack will also include a postage paid return envelope.

When will you receive the test?

You will be invited to do the test every two years until you turn 74.

Your test will arrive at the address listed on your Medicare card. You can click here to make sure your details are up-to-date. Usually, you will get your invitation on or around your birthday, but it can arrive up to six months later.  

If you live in an area where it gets quite hot, you will be sent an invitation during the colder months of the year. 

If you don’t do your test, you will be invited again around your birthday two years later. If you have not received a kit, or yours is damaged, lost or expired you can ask for another test by clicking the button below.

If you get a negative result, you will be invited to test again two years from the date of your result. If you have a positive test result, you’ll be sent information about what to do next – if you’re worried or not sure, you should speak to a GP. 

How does the test work?

To do the test, you need to take a small sample from two separate bowel movements. This means you’ll need to go to the toilet twice to poo and take a sample each time. 

The mail out kit has everything you need to do the test in your home, including detailed instructions, a flushable toilet liner, collection tube and stick, a sanitary zip lock bag and reply-paid envelope. 

A pathology laboratory will then analyse your sample and check for blood in your poo. This life saving process is quick, simple and hygienic.  

Follow these four simple steps

Your kit contains...

Description of what's in the Bowel screening kit- 2 toilet liners, 2 specimen tubes, 1 ziplock bag and 1 envelope.

Step 1 – Prepare    

Bowel screening kit instructions showing a form, writing on specimen tube and a toilet with a kit on top of it.

1. Complete your ‘Participant Details Form’. 

2. Write your details on one of the collection tubes. 

3. Leave the test kit in the bathroom so you remember to do the test.  

Step 2 – Collect  

First four steps of doing bowel screening kit- put liner on toilet, poo onto liner, collect sample with tube and shake tube.

4. Put the flushable paper toilet liner in the toilet bowl.

5. Poo onto the paper. 

6. Open the tube and scrape the tip of the stick into the poo to get a tiny sample. A sample that’s smaller than a grain of rice is OK. 

7. Put the stick back into the collection tube and click the lid shut. Shake the tube up and down.   

Step 3 – Store and repeat  

Two of the steps in bowel screening kit- tube sample in bag and fridge for storing.

8. Place the tube into the ziplock bag and store the sample in the fridge. This is a completely hygienic process because your sample is airtight.

9. Repeat steps 1-3 with the second collection tube when you next do a poo. 

Step 4 – Send  

Instructions on how to send bowel kit, showing envelope with forms and post box.

10. Put your participant details form and your two collection tubes (in the sealed zip lock bag) into the reply-paid envelope. Post the envelope within 24 hours if you can. 

Your samples will be sent to a laboratory for testing and your results will be mailed to you in around two weeks. If blood is detected, your doctor is likely to refer you for a colonoscopy.  

A positive test result does not mean you have cancer. It just means that blood has been detected and further tests are needed. However, if cancer is detected with further testing, there’s a higher chance of it being treated successfully because this test can help find it early. 

What do my test results mean?

The test you receive as a part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a faecal occult blood test (FOBT); it checks if there is blood in your poo. 

If your test results are positive, this means there is blood in your sample. About one in 14 people will have a positive FOBT result. If yours is positive, it doesn’t mean that you have bowel cancer – it means you need to do more tests to check for bowel cancer.  

Bleeding may be caused by a number of conditions, including polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation, and may not mean you have cancer.  

Blood in your poo does need to be investigated to make sure you’re healthy. If your test result is positive, contact a doctor to discuss your results and if you need more tests. 

A negative test result means there is no blood in your poo samples.  This doesn’t mean that you do not have or won't get bowel cancer in the future. If you have a negative result, you still need to test again in two years. 

If you’re confused, worried or have more questions, speak to a doctor. 

How to do the test (video instruction)

Watch this video to see how to do the test: