Bowel cancer screening activity

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

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

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.

Explore the latest data in the visualisation below.

Bowel screening invitations sent

In the December quarter 2021:

  • 577,500 invitations to participate in the screening program were sent to eligible people aged 50–74
  • the number of invitations sent to women (326,000) was higher than men (252,000)
  • 17% of the 2021 overall bowel screening invitations were sent
  • number of invitations sent was the lowest when compared to the other 2021 quarters.

Bowel screening kits returned

In the December quarter 2021:

  • 310,000 completed screening kits were returned for analysis
  • 52% of kits returned were for women
  • The number of completed kits returned was lower than in the September quarter 2021 (421,000).

Seasonal variation in bowel screening activity

Between the March quarter 2014 and the September quarter 2021, the number of invitations fluctuated across quarters and years, from a low of 225,000 in the December quarter 2014 to a peak of 1.3 million invitations in the June quarter 2020.

The increased number of NBCSP invitations sent 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 ‘National Bowel Cancer Screening Program 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.

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.

This data visualisation shows monthly national activity data for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program from January 2014 to December 2021. 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.