About the bowel screening test

Photo of the bowel screening kit, which comes with instructions in several languages, and an envelope to send it back. Who should do the test

Bowel screening is for people who don’t have symptoms of bowel cancer.

Most people aged 60 to 74 who have no obvious symptoms of bowel cancer can do the bowel screening test.

Who should talk to their doctor

Some people may have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.

You should still do the bowel screening test, even if one of these risk factors applies to you.

The risk factors include:

  • you have two or more close family members on the same side of the family who have had bowel cancer
  • you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with bowel cancer at a young age (under 55 years)
  • you have a number of family members over two or three generations who have had bowel cancer
  • you and your family have a known or suspected genetic bowel cancer syndrome
  • you have had extensive inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis, for more than 10 years.

If you have one of these risk factors you should discuss this with your doctor at your next visit.

If you have a strong family history of bowel cancer your doctor may refer you to a service that specialises in assessing people who may have familial bowel cancer – the New Zealand Familial Gastrointestinal Cancer Service.

Who should not do the bowel screening test

Bowel screening is not right for everyone. You should not be part of the bowel screening programme if you:

  • have symptoms of bowel cancer
  • have had a colonoscopy within the last five years
  • are on a bowel polyp or bowel cancer surveillance programme
  • have had or are currently being treated for bowel cancer
  • have had your large bowel removed
  • are currently being treated for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • are seeing your doctor about bowel problems.

Photo of someone holding the test kit. It has two parts: a tube, and a lid for the tube that includes an attachment for collecting the sample.

The bowel screening test

The test used by the National Bowel Screening Programme is a faecal immunochemical test (FIT). It can detect tiny traces of blood present in a small sample of your bowel motion (poo). This may be an early warning sign that something is wrong with your bowel.

How to do the test

The free test is quick, clean and simple to do by yourself at home. Your test kit comes with instructions and a consent form.

It is important to return your test kit within six months of receiving it.

To do the test, you need to:

  • collect a small sample from your bowel motion (poo), and put it into the tube
  • put the sample tube in the zip-lock bag provided, along with the signed and completed consent form
  • post it as soon as possible in the Freepost envelope provided.

Keep the sample in a cool place until you post it. To prevent any postal delays, it’s best not to send it on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Diagram showing 8 steps for doing the test. Step 1 shows the sample collection tube. Step 2 shows the sample collection sheet placed in the toilet. Step 3 shows the sheet with a bowel motion on it. Step 3 shows using the sample collector to collect a sample of the bowel motion. Step 5 shows inserting the collector inside the collection tube. Step 6 shows putting the tube inside a ziplock back. Step 7 shows putting the bag inside an evelope. Step 8 shows posting the envelope.

This animated video also provides a step-by-step guide on how to do the test.

Disability information

If you have any disability, illness or injury which may prevent you from doing the test or sending in your sample please contact us and we can discuss a solution with you.

You can call us on 0800 924 432. If you have hearing difficulties fax us on 09 484 0202 or email info@bowelscreening.health.nz.

Page last updated: 05 May 2017
0800 924 432