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If you receive the Bowel Cancer Screening home test kit, make sure you do the test!

We’ve put together answers to some frequently asked questions below for more information on bowel cancer screening.

Who should do the test?

Anyone aged 50 – 74 who receives the free home test kit should do the test. Every Australian will be sent an invitation to screen every two years from when you turn 50.

People who are eligible will receive their invitations, followed by free test kits to their home mailing address, usually within six months of your birthday. But in “hot zones” (like the Kimberley, Pilbara and Midwest/Gascoyne), the kits are received in the cooler months of June and July to avoid heat damage to samples.

If you’re aged 50-74 and haven’t received a kit or if you want to order another kit, click the button at the top of this page, or complete the National Cancer Screening Program order form.

How do you do the test?

It’s easy to do – the test is free, quick, simple and causes no pain or discomfort.

The home test kits require you to collect two poo samples and return them in the reply-paid envelope to a laboratory. The first sample must be stored in your refrigerator until you have collected both samples. Once you have two, they should be sent off straight away.

Not sure how to use the kit? The instructions are in the box, but you can also have a yarn with a health professional about it if you’re not sure how to do it.

What happens after you’ve done the test?

After you’ve sent off your test, you’ll receive the results and so will your doctor or health worker if you included their details on the test.

If the test is negative, that’s great and you don’t have to do anything else until you receive another home test kit to repeat in two years’ time.

If the test is positive, it doesn’t mean you have cancer but you’ll be asked to see your doctor or health worker to find out what happens next. Usually, your health service will refer you for further tests (usually a colonoscopy).

Why should you do the test?

Unfortunately, currently less than half of all eligible West Australians actually take part when they receive the home test kit.

But completing the home test kit when you receive it is important because bowel cancer often develops with no symptoms. The kits are designed to find bowel cancer in its very early stages. And when it is found early, more than 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.

So it’s best to do the test if you receive it. Looking out for your family and community means looking after yourself too – everybody needs to do it for their own health.

If you have family members or mates who are aged 50-74, have a yarn about the test with them – people are more likely to do it if encouraged by a friend or family member.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is cancer in any part of the large intestine, which usually develops over a number of years. Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with more than 16,000 Australians diagnosed each year.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer affecting Aboriginal Australians, after lung cancer and breast cancer, and the fifth most common cancer to cause death.

Bowel cancer symptoms:

Bowel cancer often develops with no symptoms, which is why it’s so important to participate in the screening program. But if you notice any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor or health worker straight away:

  • if you notice blood in your poo

or if you have had any of these symptoms for more than three weeks,

  • runny poo,
  • a change in bowel habits,
  • an unusual pain, lump or swelling in the tummy,
  • unexplained weight loss,
  • tiredness,
  • loss of appetite.

What is the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program?

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is run by the Australian Federal Government to help Australians check for bowel cancer in its early stages.

The Government sends free bowel cancer screening home test kits to the home address of Australians aged 50-74, with a listed address on the Medicare registry or Veterans Card.

More information

For other resources and information about the screening program visit Cancer Council’s site for Bowel Screening for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

You can also check out the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Frequently Asked Questions.

More about the ‘Do the test’ campaign

Cancer Council WA has teamed up with local people from the regions, who are keen to share the message about bowel screening with their communities. Many thanks to our champions Janet, Wayne, Arnold, Gail, Tamara, Stacey, Mark, Michelle, Allison, and David.

This project is supported by the Brigid Anne Milner and Cecilia Marie West Endowment Trust established by the generous bequest of the late George Henry Milner.

If you have any questions or would prefer to be emailed the files, please contact the Cancer Council WA Bowel Screening Team

More information

This project is supported by the Brigid Anne Milner and Cecilia Marie West Endowment Trust established by the generous bequest of the late George Henry Milner.