Image: Bowel Cancer Australia

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Encourage your patients to do the test

The Program saves lives – but it needs the support of general practices

How does the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program work?
The Program mails eligible 50 -74 year olds bowel screening kits to complete at home. The Program is expanding in stages and by 2020 people aged 50-74 years will be invited to screen every two years. The ages at which people will be invited are:


Eligible Ages


50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72, 74


50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 64, 68, 70, 72, 74


50, 54, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, 74

from 2019

50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, 74


An online eligibility calculator is available here.

What can general practices do to support participation?

  1. Display brochures, flyers and posters in your practice – Order Resources
  2. Send a letter to your 49 year old patients – Download a template letter to encourage your 49 year old patients to do the test when they receive it around their 50th birthday.
  3. Talk to patients aged 50-74 years about bowel cancer screening – Download Clinical Resources
  4. Know the Program – this series of short videos provides GPs an overview of the NBCSP covering the following topics: What is screening, Classification of risk, Referral to colonoscopy and Case studies

Why are general practices important to support participation in the Program?

Research consistently demonstrates that a recommendation from a GP to screen for bowel cancer is an important motivator for participation. A letter signed by a person’s GP endorsing Faecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBTs) has been shown to increase participation in screening. Current participation in the Program is low at 37%.

Why is bowel screening important?

  • Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world – around 17,000 people are diagnosed each year.
  • Around 93% of Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 50 years old.
  • If found early 9 out of 10 cases of bowel cancer can be successfully treated.
  • The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends FOBT screening at least every two years for people over the age of 50 who are at, or slightly above, average risk for bowel cancer (about 98% of the population).
  • Evidence shows that when fully implemented the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program could save 500 lives each year.

Need more information?
Go to www.cancerscreening.gov.au/bowel or email the Program at NBCSP@health.gov.au.