National Bowel Cancer Screening Program's Information Booklet

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Page last updated: 20 September 2019 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has been initiated by the Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, to help detect bowel cancer early and reduce the number of Australians who die each year from the disease.

What does the program involve?

The program is currently inviting Australians turning 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 or 74 years of age to take part.

Other age groups will be added progressively, so that by 2020 all Australians aged 50 to 74 years will be invited to screen every two years. This is consistent with the recommendations of the NHMRC10.

More information about the introduction of biennial (two yearly) screening is available from the program website at: the Cancer Screening website.

The names and addresses of people eligible to take part in the program are drawn from Medicare or Department of Veterans’ Affairs records. Most people receive their invitation around the time of their birthday, but it may be up to six months after their birthday. People living in hotter areas of Australia will receive their invitation during the cooler months of the year.

Eligible people are sent a bowel cancer screening test kit (a FOBT) by mail and asked to take samples from two separate bowel motions before sending the completed test back to the laboratory for analysis. There is no cost involved in completing the test.

Why are only people who are over 50 being invited to take part?

Research shows that the risk of developing bowel cancer rises significantly from the age of 50.

The NHMRC recommends screening with a FOBT every two years from the age of 50 years11.You should talk to your doctor about regular FOBT screening.

Do I have to take part?

No. Participation in the program is voluntary – it is your choice.

If you do not complete the FOBT, one reminder letter will be sent to you.

What should I do with my test kit if I don’t want to take part?

You should dispose of your test kit in your rubbish bin. Please do not return your unused kit or give it to another person.

Can I give my invitation to someone else?

No. 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.

What if I choose not to participate in the program?

Opting off the program

If you choose not to take part in the program, you can opt off. Please do not return your unused test kit or give it to another person.

By choosing to opt off of the program, you will not receive any reminder letters and you will not be invited to screen in the future, unless you notify the program that you now want to be involved.

You can opt off of the program by completing the opt off form of this information booklet or by ringing the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868. If you opt off by telephone, a confirmation letter will be sent to you.

If you have opted off of the program but then decide to participate by doing the FOBT sent to you, you will be considered a participant in the program. This means that your test results will be recorded on the Program Register and reminder letters will be sent to you, if necessary.

Suspending from the program

If you are unable to participate in the program now, but would like to in the near future, you can suspend your participation for up to one year. Or, you can choose to have a test kit sent to you when you are next eligible to participate in the program (in five years time).

You can do this by completing the suspend form on page 26 of this information booklet or by ringing the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868. If you suspend over the telephone, a confirmation letter will be sent to you.

If you choose to suspend your participation in the program, you will be asked to nominate a preferred date to recommence, after which the Program Register will send you invitations to screen and other program correspondence.

What if I change my mind about participating in the program?

If you decide in the future you want to become involved in the program, call the Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

The Program Information Line will be able to tell you about your eligibility to participate and when you may expect to receive a test kit.

10 ibid, p 38
11 ibid, p 38