Bowel screening activity data

For the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), activity data are available on:

  • the number of invitations sent out during a given period, and
  • the number of completed screening test kits returned for analysis.

Activity data provides insight into the volume of work carried out by screening programs, along with recent trends and seasonal variation. Activity data can be collected and published quickly.

Note that activity data are counts of events rather than people.

Explore the latest data in the visualisation below.

How many invitations were made?

In the December quarter 2020:

  • 468,000 invitations to participate in the screening program were sent to eligible people aged 50–74
  • the number of invitations made to females (236,000) and males (232,000) were similar.

Between the March quarter 2014 and the December quarter 2020, the number of invitations fluctuated across quarters and years, with a peak of 1,251,000 invitations in the June quarter 2020.

For more information about the impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s cancer screening programs in 2020, see the AIHW report Cancer screening and COVID-19 in Australia.

The increased number of NBCSP invites and kits returned since the March quarter 2014 reflects the staged roll-out of the NBCSP. Over subsequent years, additional age groups were invited to screen, and the program was fully rolled out (with all age groups included) in 2020. See the ‘NBCSP age groups invited by year’ section of the Technical notes for more information.

Lower numbers of invitations during hotter times of the year may reflect the NBCSP Hot-zone policy, where in some locations invitations are scheduled to be sent in cooler times of the year (Department of Health 2017). This affects some locations more than others.

How many bowel screening kits were returned?

In the December quarter 2020:

  • 396,000 completed screening kits were returned for analysis
  • 53% of kits returned were for women.

The number of completed kits returned was higher in the December quarter 2020 (396,000) than the September quarter 2020 (374,000).


This data visualisation shows monthly national activity data for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, from January 2014 to December 2020. The column graph shows the number of screening tests by year and can be filtered by measure (invitations made and kits returned), year, quarter, month and sex (males/females and persons). The second tab shows the activity data in table form, and can be filtered by measure, year, quarter and month.


Department of Health 2017. National Bowel Cancer Screening Program policy framework. Phase four (2015–2020), November. Canberra: Department of Health. Viewed 10 November 2020.