New national bowel cancer screening program test kit

A new immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) kit, and associated pathology services will be introduced into the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (the Program) from 2 January 2018.

The Program is a population based screening program that aims to help detect bowel cancer early and reduce the number of Australians who die each year from the disease. It commenced in 2006 and has been operating now for over 10 years. Eligible people are invited by mail to complete a test kit at home and send it to the Program’s pathology laboratory for analysis. There is no cost involved. The test involves taking a tiny sample of faeces which is tested in a pathology laboratory. The test can detect tiny amounts of blood in faeces which may be a sign of cancer or polyps.

The new kit (an Eiken kit - OC Auto-sampling Bottle 3 - using the Pledia analyser) and associated pathology service was selected by the Department of Health through an open market tender process. The new kit is included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and is already used widely in Australia and overseas. The new pathology provider is Sonic Healthcare Limited (Sonic).

The current test kit is no longer available to the Program from January 2018 as it will cease to be produced.

The current provider Specialist Diagnostic Services (operating as Dorevitch Pathology) will continue to provide the current test kit and pathology services until 31 December 2017. Sonic will commence services from 2 January 2018 (1 January is a public holiday). Consequently, there will be no disruption of services for people to be invited through the Program. For any kits issued by Dorevitch pathology in 2017, where these are returned in 2018, they will still be tested by Dorevitch Pathology as the service provider will still be in place with the Program to test returned kits that were issued in 2017.

The new kit sample collection method is very similar to that of the kit currently used in the Program. The attached brochure provides information on the kit contents and instructions. This Instruction Brochure will be provided to invitees with the kit, along with an Information Booklet. The Information Booklet has also been updated and is attached for your reference. A new ‘how to do the test’ video is also being developed. The new instruction brochure, Information Booklet and video and will be available at www.cancerscreening.gov.au/bowel in early January 2018. Questions and answers about the new kit will also be available on the website.

Enhancing the user-friendliness of the kit and associated consumer materials has been a key focus leading in to the implementation of the new kit. Improvements have been made drawing on the lessons learnt and feedback from Program participants, focus groups, experts, stakeholders and advisory group members. During the first year of implementation, continuous improvement of the kit will remain a key area of focus for the Department of Health and Sonic.

Demonstration kits should be available in early 2018. Please email NBCSP@health.gov.au if you would like to place an order.