Bowel testing: Understanding the differences.

Bowel testing: Understanding the differences between tests

They say you shouldn’t discuss religion or politics over dinner. But either of those topics is probably easier to talk about than your bowels. 

Yet your bowels are a vital part of your body. Your large bowel (or colon) is about 2 metres long and is responsible for processing, storing and getting rid of waste, as well as absorbing some water and nutrients.

It’s not always easy to know if your bowels are healthy. And some bowel conditions can be quite advanced before symptoms begin to show. 

That’s why the government runs the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Let’s talk about the National program.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program 

Unfortunately, only about 40% of eligible people participate in Australia’s bowel cancer screening program. There are probably a number of complicated reasons for that. 

Public views of the faecal occult blood test

Screening tests are important – but they’re not exactly popular. They’re one of the things we always mean to get around to doing, but then put off for various reasons. So, a screening test that requires you to fiddle around with your faeces then put it in the fridge for a few days is not likely to be appealing. 

When Australian participants of the National Bowel Screening program were interviewed, the following key aspects of the test were identified: 

  • No clear communication why the test was sent to Australians within the 45-75 age group.
  • Confusing instructions for completing the test, participants wanted more pictures and less text.
  • Participants were worried the liner's needed to catch their poo would block their toilet plumbing.
  • The National Bowel screening program packaging "looks scary" and made individuals worried.

Age restrictions

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is only available to eligible Australians aged 50-74. Yet you’re Never2Young for bowel cancer. Over 10% of all cases are in people under the age of 50. 

Only looks for bowel cancer

Bowel cancer screening is certainly important. Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer. We have one of the highest rates in the world – 1 in 15 of us will develop the disease at some point, though most cases can be successfully treated if caught early enough (another reason to participate in screening).  

But bowel cancer is most definitely not the only condition that can affect your digestive system. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program only screens for bowel cancer, potentially missing a useful opportunity to assess other bowel conditions, (as part of a clinical assessment) such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 

Thankfully, all these problems can all be overcome with a different style of test. One that’s easy, quick and much less messy. 

The ColoVantage approach

Enterix/ColoVantage has a long and successful history in advancing bowel health. 

Back in 1997, we developed our brush-based faecal immunochemical test. The US Food and Drug Administration (equivalent to Australia’s TGA) approved this test in 2001-2002 and we’ve now sold more than 40 million test kits worldwide, enabling countless people to benefit from earlier detection and treatment of bowel conditions (or earlier reassurance that nothing’s wrong). 

Here’s how our test stacks up against the National Bowel Cancer Screening program. 

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

ColoVantage Home

Age restriction



Program screens for

Bowel cancer only

Screens for Blood in stool which may be an indicator for, or early sign of:

  • Bowel Cancer
  • Crohns disease
  • Bowel Infections
  • Colorectal Polyps
  • Diverticular disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Test used

Faecal occult blood test

Faecal immunochemical test 


Short stick to collect poo

Long brush to collect toilet bowel water only.

What do you have to do? 

  • Poo onto a plastic liner covering the toilet bowl water.
  • Scrape some poo off and put it in a small container. 
  • Keep it in your fridge until you’ve collected a second sample from a different poo.
  • Take your samples to a post office within 24 hours, or mail in the late afternoon (before 6pm).
  • Poo into the toilet bowl as usual.
  • Use the long brush to collect toilet water from around your stool.
  • Dab the brush’s bristles on a test pad then seal it.
  • Store at room temperature until you’ve collected a second sample from a different poo.
  • Take your samples to the post. 

How long will it take to get my results?

  • Get your result letter by mail, usually 4-6 weeks later.
  • Get your results quickly via email or SMS, usually within 24 hours of your sample arriving in the laboratory.

Please view the health warnings prior to purchasing a screening kit to make sure this test is right for you. If you’d like an easy process to test your bowel health, order a test today



All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. 

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