Doing the home test kit

Early bowel cancer has no symptoms, which is why the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) used for screening in bowel cancer is so helpful. It detects tiny amounts of blood in your poo (faeces) that you cannot see. Blood in your poo is a sign there may be changes in the bowel that cannot be felt or seen. Whilst the changes may not be cancer, if left unchecked, the changes could continue to grow and over time develop into cancer. It is finding the changes early – either before they develop into cancer or at the earliest stages of cancer – that offer the best chance of cure.

To do the free screening test, collect a sample from two different bowel motions (faeces/poo) and mail it to the laboratory for testing. A positive test result means that blood was detected in one or both of the samples. A positive test result DOES NOT mean you have cancer, but DOES mean you need to follow-up to see why there was blood in your poo. Participants who receive a positive test result should see their general practitioner (GP) as soon as possible. Your GP may then refer you to see a specialist doctor for a colonoscopy.

Remember! If you notice blood or changes in your bowel habits between testing speak with your GP.

Bowel screening can save your life. Watch the video below to find out how to do the FOBT test when you receive your free screening kit in the mail.


Read video transcript

Bowel cancer screening can save your life.

When it's detected early, 9 out of 10 cases can be treated successfully.

The chance of getting bowel cancer increases from the age of 50. That's why Australians aged between 50 and 74 will receive a free test kit in the mail every two years.

People who've done the test say it's quick, clean and easier than they expected.

You'll receive an envelope in the mail that will include everything you need to do the test, including your Participant Details form, two flushable toilet liners, two labelled collection tubes, a Ziplock bag, a Reply-Paid envelope and easy-to-follow instructions.

The test is looking for invisible traces of blood in your poo, which could be a sign of cancer or a pre-cancerous growth. All you need to do is collect 2 tiny samples from 2 separate poos. Collect the 2 samples as close together as possible, this can be on the same day, the next day, or as soon as you can.

Take 1 collection tube and write your name, date of birth, and the date you are taking the sample on the white label. Place it within easy reach of the toilet. Do a wee and flush the toilet. Then take one of the flushable toilet liners and lay it over the water in the toilet bowl. This will catch your poo.

Once you have done a poo, the next step is to open the collection tube by twisting the green cap. Scrape the tip of the stick, attached to the cap, over different areas of the surface of the poo. You only need a tiny sample, smaller than a grain of rice. Put the stick back into the collection tube and click the lid shut. Shake the tube up and down several times. Make sure you don't open it again. You can now flush the toilet as normal. The toilet liner is biodegradable. Place the tube into the Ziplock bag and store it somewhere cool. A fridge is ideal, but do not freeze the sample.

When you're ready to take your next sample, repeat the process using the second collection tube. This can be on the same day, the next day, or as soon as you can. Once you're done, seal the Ziplock bag with the 2 tubes in it and put the bag in the fridge.

Now you're ready for the final step.

Fill out your Participant Details form, then put it in the Reply Paid envelope, along with the Ziplock bag containing your 2 samples. Make sure you read the checklist on the back of the envelope before sealing it. Write your name and address on the back of the envelope and sign the front.

Now all you need to do is mail the samples, within 24 hours if you can.

Postage is free.

The samples can be affected by heat, so make sure you don't leave them in a hot car or direct sunlight. For this reason, it's best if you can drop them to your local post office as soon as possible after they are removed from the fridge. If you do have to use an Australia Post mail box, please post them in the late afternoon, before 6pm.

Your samples will be sent to the laboratory and your results will be mailed to you in around 2 weeks.

If you receive a negative result, this means that no blood was found in your samples. You won't need to do anything else until your next test in 2 years' time. However, if you develop symptoms in the meantime, talk to your doctor.

If you receive a positive test result, this means that traces of blood were found in your samples. This could be due to conditions other than cancer, and it's important to make an appointment with your doctor to investigate.

If you have questions about how to do the test, call 1800 930 998.

Last Updated: 27/10/2021