National Bowel Cancer Screening Program's Faecal Occult Blood Test Kit
A FOBT is a simple test that can be completed at home before sending to a pathology laboratory for analysis. The test is quick, easy and painless. The test detects tiny amounts of blood, often released from bowel cancers or pre-cancerous growths (polyps or adenomas) into the bowel motion. To increase the chances of detecting a tiny amount of blood in the bowel motion, samples are needed to be taken from two separate bowel motions.
FOBTs are not a diagnostic test (they cannot tell if you have cancer) but are used to identify those people who require further testing. The result of a FOBT is either positive (indicating the presence of blood), negative (indicating no significant traces of blood) or inconclusive (wasn't able to determine a positive or negative result).
For further information in regards to the FOBT, contact the FOBT Helpline on 1300 738 365.
Your invitation pack, which includes the FOBT kit, will have detailed instructions on how to complete the test. You should carefully follow these instructions. Once the two samples have been collected, you should return your test kit with your signed Participant Details Form, direct to the pathology laboratory, in the pre-paid envelope that was enclosed with the invitation and the kit.
Ideally the FOBT should be completed within two weeks of receiving it and no later than two months after date of receipt. The kit should always be stored in a cool place (no higher than 25°C) both before and after use. If living in a climate where the room temperature is higher than this, the kit may be stored in the refrigerator, but should be kept away from food and prevented from freezing.
You are encouraged to nominate a doctor on your Participant Details Form. If you don’t see a regular doctor, but attend a clinic or service for health care, such as Aboriginal Medical Service, then you can nominate that service.
If you have any difficulty completing the FOBT, or need further information about the test, you can contact the FOBT Helpline on 1300 738 365.
Your result will be sent to you, your doctor/medical practice (if you nominated one on the Participants Details Form) and also to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Register. You should receive your result approximately two weeks after you sent the completed FOBT kit to the pathology laboratory for analysis.
If your FOBT result is positive (blood was detected), you and your doctor/medical practice (if nominated) will be advised by letter from the pathology laboratory. You should make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss the result and any further tests that may be required, preferably within two weeks of getting your results. About one in 14 people will have a positive FOBT result. A positive FOBT result means that blood has been detected in the samples that you have provided. The presence of blood may be due to conditions other than cancer, such as polyps, haemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel, but the cause of the bleeding needs to be investigated by your doctor.
Your doctor will probably refer you for further tests eg. a colonoscopy to investigate what may have caused the bleeding and refer you to a specialist who deals with bowel problems. If the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Register has no record of you having seen your doctor within eight weeks of receiving your positive FOBT result, the Register will call you (and your nominated doctor) or send you (and your nominated doctor) a letter reminding you to visit your doctor to discuss the result. This is to ensure that anyone who has a positive FOBT result receives appropriate follow-up.
If your FOBT result is negative (no blood was detected), you and your doctor/medical practice (if nominated) will be advised by letter from the pathology laboratory. A negative FOBT result does not necessarily mean that you do not have, or can never develop bowel cancer, as bowel cancers can bleed on and off. If your FOBT was negative, the medical recommendation is to repeat the FOBT test in two years time. In the meantime if you develop any of the symptoms of bowel cancer or discover a family history as described in the Information Booklet you received with your test kit, you should contact your doctor immediately.