Australian Government Department of Health
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
Photos of Older Australians

Participating in the Program

Frequently asked questions about participating in the program.

Do eligible people have to take part?

No. Participation in the Program is voluntary.

If a person has an existing bowel condition, should they still participate in the Program?

In most cases, a person who has an existing bowel condition should still participate in the Program.

However, if a person has received an invitation to participate in the Program but:
  • has had a bowel condition in the last 12 months which is currently under treatment; or
  • has had a colonoscopy within the last year; or
  • is scheduled for a colonoscopy in the next few weeks;

    please discuss your participation in the screening program with your doctor and call the Information Line on 1800 118 868 if your doctor recommends that you do not need to participate in the Program.

If eligible people don't want to take part can they give their invitations to someone else?

No. The free screening test is only available for those people who have been invited to take part in the Program.

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What if an eligible person needs another test kit?

People who have been invited to participate in the Program can obtain up to two replacement kits. To order a replacement kit, contact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

What if a Program participant cannot understand the test's instructions?

The FOBT Helpline - 1300 738 365, will provide advice to people on how to complete the test kit.

FOBT instructions in other languages can be found on our Multilingual Information page. If you have difficultly communicating in English, you can ring Translating and Interpreting Services for assistance on 13 14 50.

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Is there an expiry time for completing the FOBT?

Upon receipt, the FOBT should be completed as soon as possible. Each FOBT has an expiry date. This can be located on the stickers included with the sample collection tubes.

Once both samples have been collected, it should be posted in the reply paid envelope, containing the collection tubes and the signed Participant Details Form, within 24 hours or as soon as possible.

Can the test be completed at the doctor's surgery?

The FOBT kit is designed to make it easy for people to comfortably complete the test in the privacy of their own home.

The screening test requires taking samples from two separate bowel motions, so it is not practical to do the test at your doctor's surgery.

For further information refer to screening with a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).

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Is it possible to participate in the Program without nominating a doctor?

Yes. It is not mandatory to nominate a doctor on the Participant Details Form. You may also nominate a medical practice, if you do not wish to identify a specific GP.

If no doctor or medical practice is nominated, the FOBT results will only be sent to the participant.

If a doctor or medical practice is nominated, the results of the FOBT will be sent to the participant and their doctor.

If the FOBT result is positive it will be necessary to discuss the result with a doctor. So participants are encouraged to nominate their usual doctor, so that the results can be sent to their doctor to facilitate follow up.

What is the ID number and what is it used for?

The ID number is the number located on the top right hand corner of the invitation letter that is sent with the FOBT kit.

The ID number allows the Register to accurately identify eligible people and ensure that they are being followed up appropriately after completing the FOBT.

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What if an eligible person chooses not to participate in the Program?

Participation in the Program is voluntary. If an eligible person does not want to take part in bowel cancer screening now and in the future, they can opt off the Program. Eligible people who would like to participate in the future but are unable to at this time, can suspend from the Program.

Opting off the Program

People who opt off the Program will not be invited to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program again. This means that they will miss out on the opportunity to be screened for bowel cancer and polyps through this Program.

People can opt off the Program by completing the opt off section of the form included in the Program's Information Booklet or by ringing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line on 1800 118 868. Those who opt off by telephone will be sent a confirmation letter. People who opt off the Program after they have completed a FOBT and sent it for analysis, will still be sent the results of their test. A copy of the results will also be sent to their doctor (if nominated). However they (and their doctor if nominated) will not receive any further follow up or reminders from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Register.

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Suspending from the Program

People who want to participate in screening but are unable to do so at the time they receive their invitation can suspend from the Program for a period of time, by completing the form included in the Program's Information Booklet or by ringing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line on 1800 118 868. A confirmation letter will be sent to people who suspend over the phone.

People who suspend their participation in the Program will be asked to advise of a preferred date to recommence. After the period of suspension has expired, the Register will re-commence sending invitations to screen and other correspondence.

If a person suspends from the Program after they complete a FOBT and send it for analysis, the results of the test will still be sent to them and their doctor (if nominated). However no further follow up will occur until after the period of suspension has elapsed.

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What if a person opted off and then changed their mind about participating in the Program?

People may opt back on to this phase of the Program by ringing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Information Line on 1800 118 868.

Page currency, Latest update: 15 November, 2013