Steaming jobbies no threat to bowel screening tests

3 minute read

Kits prove fit for purpose, even when the heat is on.

Your Back Page scribbler is of an age where the arrival of a bowel cancer screening kit in the mail is no longer a novelty.

And being a conscientious type with a solid history of the Big C splashing about in the family gene pool, the kit does not linger long in the sock drawer. No sirree! We’ve become quite the dab hand at sample collection and no time is wasted in popping the poop in the post along with a cheery quip that “it’s great to finally be sending some crap back to the government”.      

But have you ever wondered about the testing quality of those samples, given that one is asked to keep them in the fridge next to the Nutella until they’re ready to dispatch, but they’re then left for who knows how long in a post box that may well be baking in an Australian summer heatwave?

Not to mention the other temperature variations the tubes may experience during their unpredictable postal voyage to the path lab.      

It’s certainly a question that has occurred to the pointy-heads at Flinders University, because researchers there have done the hard yards to find out whether exposure of the faecal samples to high temperatures reduced the accuracy of the testing, with the study results published this month in the journal Clinical Chemistry

Because we know you’re too busy to read all that, here’s the bottom line: Your shit’s safe with Australia Post.

That doesn’t mean that exposing faecal immunochemical tests (FITs) to high temperatures won’t affect them. It does. It’s just that your average postal journey, even at the height of an Australian summer, is not usually long enough, nor consistently hot enough, to spoil the samples.

Part of the reason for that has been the addition, by the kit manufacturers, of stabilising agents to the liquid in the test tubes which are designed to mitigate the negative effect of hotter environments.

While the research found that temperatures of 30-35°C reduced the bowel cancer screening test accuracy after more than four days, posted tests were typically exposed to temperatures above 30°C for less than 24 hours.

What’s more, screening program data showed no association between test accuracy and maximum daily temperatures, the boffins wrote.

“Although the test samples are exposed to elevated temperatures during postage, this is brief and does not significantly affect the accuracy of the bowel cancer screening test,” Bowel Health Service research associate Geraldine Laven-Law said in a media release.

So that’s one less excuse for not doing the right thing by your bowels.

But we do wonder what the plan will be for when today’s millennials start reaching their 50s. Will they even know what a physical mailbox is?

You can send your own samples of wit and wisdom to

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