I'm ready. How do I complete the screening kit?

A bowel screening kit is used to detect bleeding from your lower bowel, which is often not visible. The test is completed in the privacy of your home and returned in the mail for processing. Make sure you complete and sign your Participant Details Form and send it with your completed samples.

Page last updated: 10 November 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

The bowel screening test is a simple test that you do at home before sending samples to a pathology laboratory for analysis. The test is quick, easy and painless. To increase the chances of detecting tiny amounts of blood in your bowel motion, you will need to take samples from two separate bowel motions. Ideally, samples should be collected as close together as possible and preferably no more than 2-3 days apart.

The accuracy of the results can be affected by temperature and by the time from sampling to analysis. Taking the samples as close together as you can, storing them correctly and returning them quickly for analysis will ensure that your result is as accurate as possible. If it takes longer than 14 days from when you take the first sample to when your samples reach the pathology laboratory, you will be sent another kit to complete. The bowel screening kit includes an instruction sheet, and you should read this carefully before doing the sampling.

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No screening test is 100 per cent accurate. As with most tests, the sooner the samples can be analysed, the more accurate the result. Taking the samples as close together as you can, storing them correctly and posting them promptly will ensure that the most accurate results are obtained. Blood starts to break down once it leaves the body. The liquid in the collection tube acts as a preservative for blood.

Certain conditions can cause blood to break down at a faster rate and, once the blood breaks down, it is harder to detect in the screening process. This may result in a ‘false negative’. Samples that are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, or delayed in analysis, may be affected in this way. To reduce the breakdown of any blood in the samples, it is important not to expose them to high temperatures and to complete the test promptly.

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The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

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Once you have collected the samples, send them to the pathology laboratory for testing in the reply paid envelope provided in the kit. Where possible, hand the reply paid envelope in at an Australia Post office or drop it in the post box within the office (rather than using an outside post box).

When sending in your samples make sure you include your signed Participant Details Form. Returning them quickly for analysis will ensure that your result is as accurate as possible.

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No dietary preparation is required. Do not change your diet or medication before collecting the samples. The only preparation is to read the 'Instructions for sample collection' information sheet. The instructions will be included with the test kit.

Read related FAQ's

No screening test is 100 per cent accurate. As with most tests, the sooner the samples can be analysed, the more accurate the result. Taking the samples as close together as you can, storing them correctly and posting them promptly will ensure that the most accurate results are obtained. Blood starts to break down once it leaves the body. The liquid in the collection tube acts as a preservative for blood.

Certain conditions can cause blood to break down at a faster rate and, once the blood breaks down, it is harder to detect in the screening process. This may result in a ‘false negative’. Samples that are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, or delayed in analysis, may be affected in this way. To reduce the breakdown of any blood in the samples, it is important not to expose them to high temperatures and to complete the test promptly.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

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Yes. Samples cannot be collected if:

  • it is during or within three days either side of a menstrual period
  • you have haemorrhoids (piles) that are bleeding
  • blood is present in the urine or visible in the toilet bowl – if this is the case contact your doctor.

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Screening involves testing for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease. The aim is to find polyps or cancer early when they are easier to treat and cure. Bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. The cancer can grow on the inside wall of the bowel for several years before spreading to other parts of the body. Often very small amounts of blood leak from these growths and pass into the bowel motion before any symptoms are noticed.

A test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) can detect small amounts of blood in your bowel motion. Although no screening test is 100 per cent accurate, the FOBT is at present the most reliable screening test for bowel cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend screening with an FOBT every two years from the age of 50 years. If you develop any of the symptoms of bowel cancer or discover a family history of bowel cancer you should contact your doctor as soon as possible to talk about the type of testing that is most suitable for you.

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You should store your samples in a cool place until you post it, such as the fridge. Given the tiny amount of sample required and the four protective coverings (the sampling tube, the transport tube, the plastic ziplock bag and the reply paid envelope) there should be no risk of contamination with other contents of your fridge. The fridge provides the most stable conditions for your sample but DO NOT FREEZE.

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You only have to collect a tiny sample, just a smear on the tip of the sampling stick. This needs to be done from two separate bowel movements.

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You should store your samples in a cool place until you post it, such as the fridge. Given the tiny amount of sample required and the four protective coverings (the sampling tube, the transport tube, the plastic ziplock bag and the reply paid envelope) there should be no risk of contamination with other contents of your fridge. The fridge provides the most stable conditions for your sample but DO NOT FREEZE.

Read related FAQ's

No screening test is 100 per cent accurate. As with most tests, the sooner the samples can be analysed, the more accurate the result. Taking the samples as close together as you can, storing them correctly and posting them promptly will ensure that the most accurate results are obtained. Blood starts to break down once it leaves the body. The liquid in the collection tube acts as a preservative for blood.

Certain conditions can cause blood to break down at a faster rate and, once the blood breaks down, it is harder to detect in the screening process. This may result in a ‘false negative’. Samples that are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, or delayed in analysis, may be affected in this way. To reduce the breakdown of any blood in the samples, it is important not to expose them to high temperatures and to complete the test promptly.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

Screening involves testing for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease. The aim is to find polyps or cancer early when they are easier to treat and cure. Bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. The cancer can grow on the inside wall of the bowel for several years before spreading to other parts of the body. Often very small amounts of blood leak from these growths and pass into the bowel motion before any symptoms are noticed.

A test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) can detect small amounts of blood in your bowel motion. Although no screening test is 100 per cent accurate, the FOBT is at present the most reliable screening test for bowel cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend screening with an FOBT every two years from the age of 50 years. If you develop any of the symptoms of bowel cancer or discover a family history of bowel cancer you should contact your doctor as soon as possible to talk about the type of testing that is most suitable for you.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ
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You only have to collect a tiny sample, just a smear on the tip of the sampling stick. This needs to be done from two separate bowel movements.

Read related FAQ's

The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

You will need to take samples from two separate bowel motions. Ideally, samples should be collected as close together as possible and preferably no more than 2-3 days apart. If you have more than one bowel movement in the one day, you can collect both samples on the same day.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

You should store your samples in a cool place until you post it, such as the fridge. Given the tiny amount of sample required and the four protective coverings (the sampling tube, the transport tube, the plastic ziplock bag and the reply paid envelope) there should be no risk of contamination with other contents of your fridge. The fridge provides the most stable conditions for your sample but DO NOT FREEZE.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ
Close FAQ

You will need to take samples from two separate bowel motions. Ideally, samples should be collected as close together as possible and preferably no more than 2-3 days apart. If you have more than one bowel movement in the one day, you can collect both samples on the same day.

Read related FAQ's

No screening test is 100 per cent accurate. As with most tests, the sooner the samples can be analysed, the more accurate the result. Taking the samples as close together as you can, storing them correctly and posting them promptly will ensure that the most accurate results are obtained. Blood starts to break down once it leaves the body. The liquid in the collection tube acts as a preservative for blood.

Certain conditions can cause blood to break down at a faster rate and, once the blood breaks down, it is harder to detect in the screening process. This may result in a ‘false negative’. Samples that are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, or delayed in analysis, may be affected in this way. To reduce the breakdown of any blood in the samples, it is important not to expose them to high temperatures and to complete the test promptly.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

You only have to collect a tiny sample, just a smear on the tip of the sampling stick. This needs to be done from two separate bowel movements.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

You should store your samples in a cool place until you post it, such as the fridge. Given the tiny amount of sample required and the four protective coverings (the sampling tube, the transport tube, the plastic ziplock bag and the reply paid envelope) there should be no risk of contamination with other contents of your fridge. The fridge provides the most stable conditions for your sample but DO NOT FREEZE.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ
Close FAQ

Once you have collected the samples, send them to the pathology laboratory for testing in the reply paid envelope provided in the kit. Where possible, hand the reply paid envelope in at an Australia Post office or drop it in the post box within the office (rather than using an outside post box).

When sending in your samples make sure you include your signed Participant Details Form. Returning them quickly for analysis will ensure that your result is as accurate as possible.

Read related FAQ's

If your bowel screening test result is positive, you will need to discuss the result with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a further test, usually a colonoscopy, to find the cause of the bleeding. You should discuss with your doctor any risks associated with such testing.

What does a colonoscopy involve?

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the bowel. The usual procedure for a colonoscopy is described below.

The day before:

The day before the colonoscopy you will be asked to drink a special preparation to help empty your bowel. This is very important, because it helps the doctor see the lining of your bowel more clearly and find any changes. You will need to be near a bathroom all day, so you may need to take time off work or plan ahead if you need to travel for your colonoscopy.

The day of the procedure:

On the day of the procedure you may be given a sedative that will make you feel drowsy. The doctor will then insert a narrow flexible tube into the rectum. This tube is called a colonoscope. It has a very small camera attached to it, which lets the doctor look for polyps or cancerous growths in the bowel. The test itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is usually carried out in a hospital or day clinic. After the procedure you will remain in the hospital recovery area for about two hours until the effect of the sedation wears off. You may then go home.

You will need to have someone come and pick you up. Because of the sedation, it is very important that you do not drive a car, travel on public transport alone (including in a taxi), operate machinery, sign legal documents or drink alcohol for 24 hours after your test. If any polyps are seen, the doctor will usually remove them immediately and test them for cancer. You may feel some discomfort after the procedure, but this will settle quickly. You should not feel any pain.

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The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

Read more information like this | Close FAQ

The results will be sent to you, your doctor (if you have nominated one) and also to the Program Register about two weeks after you post your completed test to the laboratory. You are encouraged to nominate your doctor on the form. It is not compulsory to nominate a doctor or health service. If you don’t have a regular doctor, but attend a clinic or service (such as an Aboriginal Medical Service) for health care, then you can nominate that service. The pathology laboratory will send your test results to you and your doctor/health service (if nominated).

If you opt off the Program after you have completed a test and sent it for analysis, the results of the test will still be sent to you and your doctor (if nominated). If you have a positive test result, you will need to discuss the result with your doctor/health service.

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Call the Bowel Screening Helpline on 1800 738 365 if you are unsure how to do the test. They will talk you through it step by step.

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No. Participation in the program is voluntary – it is your choice. If you do not complete the bowel screening kit, one reminder letter will be sent to you. If you choose not to participate, you should dispose of your screening kit in your rubbish bin and opt off the program by ringing the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868. Please do not return your unused kit or give it to another person. At the moment the free screening test is only available for those people who have been invited to take part in the program. If you know someone who wants to have a test for bowel cancer, or is concerned about their health, you should advise them to contact their doctor.

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If you lose or damage your test kit and need a replacement, please contact the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

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The results will be sent to you, your doctor (if you have nominated one) and also to the Program Register about two weeks after you post your completed test to the laboratory. You are encouraged to nominate your doctor on the form. It is not compulsory to nominate a doctor or health service. If you don’t have a regular doctor, but attend a clinic or service (such as an Aboriginal Medical Service) for health care, then you can nominate that service. The pathology laboratory will send your test results to you and your doctor/health service (if nominated).

If you opt off the Program after you have completed a test and sent it for analysis, the results of the test will still be sent to you and your doctor (if nominated). If you have a positive test result, you will need to discuss the result with your doctor/health service.

Read related FAQ's

You can be assured that your personal information and test results kept on the Program Register are protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and your personal details will be handled in accordance with the Information Privacy Principles set out within that Act.

Who will my information be provided to?

Personal information kept on the Program Register may be disclosed to health professionals who provide services under the program, such as your nominated doctor, medical specialists, the pathology laboratory responsible for analysing your bowel screening test, employees and contracted service providers of state and territory health departments, the Australian Government Department of Health, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and any authorised third party you have nominated.

What if my personal details are incorrect or change?

If your personal details change or are listed incorrectly please call the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

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The bowel screening test shows whether or not blood was found in your samples. If no blood is found in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is negative. However, this does not mean that you do not have or can never develop bowel cancer, as some bowel cancers do not bleed or only bleed on and off. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you have an bowel screening test every two years from the age of 50 years.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer after receiving a negative result, see your doctor immediately. If blood is present in the samples you send to the laboratory, your test result is positive. About one in 13 people will have a positive result, indicating the presence of blood. This may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated. If blood is detected, you will be asked to contact your doctor to discuss the result.

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The Program Register is administered by the Department of Human Services. It keeps personal information such as your:

  • name;
  • contact details;
  • age;
  • gender;
  • Medicare number
  • results of your screening test and the results of any further tests you may have such as colonoscopy and histopathology results; and
  • the name of your nominated doctor and other health professionals who provide screening services to you.

To invite you to take part in the program your name has been drawn from either the Medicare or Department of Veterans’ Affairs enrolment records.

What will this information be used for?

Your personal details will be used to:

  • remind you to complete your bowel screening kit;
  • assist you to receive appropriate follow up and access to health services in accordance with clinical guidelines;
  • send reminder letters and/or make telephone calls (where necessary) to you and your nominated doctor;
  • contact medical service providers to request relevant reports be submitted to the Program Register;
  • check Medicare and Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims for bowel examinations if required; and
  • and monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the program and its impact on the incidence of bowel cancer.
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If you lose or damage your test kit and need a replacement, please contact the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

Read related FAQ's

The results will be sent to you, your doctor (if you have nominated one) and also to the Program Register about two weeks after you post your completed test to the laboratory. You are encouraged to nominate your doctor on the form. It is not compulsory to nominate a doctor or health service. If you don’t have a regular doctor, but attend a clinic or service (such as an Aboriginal Medical Service) for health care, then you can nominate that service. The pathology laboratory will send your test results to you and your doctor/health service (if nominated).

If you opt off the Program after you have completed a test and sent it for analysis, the results of the test will still be sent to you and your doctor (if nominated). If you have a positive test result, you will need to discuss the result with your doctor/health service.

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