National Bowel Cancer Screening Program 2016

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia, with 80 Australians dying each week from this disease. But, if detected early, up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is saving lives. Evidence from the Program has shown that Program invitees had 15% less risk of dying from bowel cancer, and were more likely to have less-advanced bowel cancers when diagnosed, than non-invitees1. A recent report found that the immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT), used in the Program, is currently the most sensitive screening test for use in population screening (83% sensitivity and 93% specificity)2.

The Program is expanding and by 2020 all eligible Australians aged 50 to 74 will be invited to screen for bowel cancer every two years using a free iFOBT in the privacy of their home. In 2016 people aged 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 will receive a free screening kit in the mail, around the time of their birthday. The remaining age groups will be included from 2017 to 2019. These changes mean that more people will be screened and more lives will be saved.

Despite the evidence, participation in the Program is still low at 36%. Endorsement of bowel screening from a GP or other trusted health professional can significantly improve participation and prevent more deaths from bowel cancer in Australia.

Campaign & Program Resources

More information on the campaign, including posters and flyers, can be found at www.australia.gov.au/bowelscreening. Translated campaign materials are available in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Greek, Italian and Vietnamese. Materials have also been adapted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences and are available in the Alyawarra, Arrernte, Luritja, Pitjantjatjara, TSI Creole and Warlpiri languages.

Please email cancerscreening@health.gov.au if you would like to order any resources for your practice.

The Program website now has an eligibility tool to help people find out when they will receive a free screening test kit. The tool and other information on the Program can be found at: www.cancerscreening.gov.au/bowel


1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Analysis of bowel cancer outcomes for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Cat. no. CAN 87. Canberra: AIHW.

2 HealthPACT report. July 2015. Blood and stool based biomarker testing for colorectal cancer. Queensland Department of Health.