Bowel Cancer Prevention Made Easy: How to Get Your Free Test Kit

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, refers to cancer which develops in any part of the colon or rectum. Bowel cancers start as benign, non-threatening growths called polyps found on the wall or inner lining of the bowel. Polyps are often harmless, however adenomatous polyps can become cancerous and can develop over time into a cancerous tumour.

Bowel cancer is a significant health concern in Australia and is the fourth most diagnosed cancer in the country1. It’s estimated that approximately one in 15 Australians2 will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime.

The risk of bowel cancer increases from the age of 50 and if found early, 90%3 of bowel cancers can be successfully treated, which is why screening is so important. For more information on bowel cancer, check out our Bowel Cancer Treatment Guide.

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Signs and Symptoms of bowel cancer

  • Blood in your poo or in the toilet bowl
  • Changes in normal bowel habits such as
  • Looser poos
  • Severe constipation
  • Needing to poo more often than usual
  • Pain on or lump/swelling in stomach
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected weight loss

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?

The Australian Government introduced the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer by detecting early signs of the disease.

The program uses a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit which looks for traces of blood in the stool as it may not be visible to the naked eye. While it’s not a direct test for cancer, it can detect early signs of bowel abnormalities.

Who is eligible?

Australians aged 50 to 74 are automatically invited to take part in the screening program and will receive a free test kit delivered to their address every two years.

From July 1, 2024 Australians aged 45 to 49 can join the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program by requesting a kit. People in this age group can order their first free kit by completing the form available online at:

How do I complete the test?

This life saving process is quick, simple and easy to complete at home.
You need to collect two small samples from two separate bowel movements. This means you’ll need to go to the toilet twice and take a sample each time. If possible, collect the two samples as close together as you can.

The kit that comes in the mail has everything you need to do the test in your home, including:

  • detailed instructions
  • participant details form
  • flushable toilet liners
  • collection tubes
  • zip lock bag
  • reply-paid envelope

Please be aware that it should be completed and sent for testing as soon as possible because exposure of your collected sample to high heat can affect the accuracy of the result. In hotter areas of Australia, the kit may be sent out in the cooler months.

A pathology laboratory will analyse your sample and check for blood in your sample and you will receive your results within 4 weeks.

What would make me ineligible for the test?

You should not do the test if you have:

  • your menstrual period. Do the test 3 days after your menstrual period has finished
  • haemorrhoids (piles) that are bleeding
  • recently had a colonoscopy
  • blood in your urine, poo, or in the toilet bowl – if this happens, speak to a doctor

You should speak to a doctor if you have:

  • any symptoms of bowel cancer
  • a strong family history of bowel cancer

What if I’m too young for a free test kit?

Bowel cancer can occur in people younger than 50 and older than 74. If you are concerned about bowel cancer or have any symptoms, it is recommended to discuss this with your doctor.

What if my test comes back positive?

If your test result is positive, this means blood has been found in your sample. About one in 14 people will have a positive FOBT result. A positive test result doesn’t mean that you have bowel cancer – it means you will require further investigations to check for bowel cancer and should make an appointment with your doctor.

More Information

The content found on the Icon Cancer Centre website is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. It is not a substitute for consulting with a qualified medical professional. Our website is designed to provide information and support to the general public. Please be mindful that we do not dispense medical advice, and for personalised medical guidance, we strongly advise you to consult with a qualified medical professional or doctor.

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