Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK. About 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. If it’s detected early, treatment is more successful and there’s a good chance of recovery.
The bowel screening programme aims to find bowel cancer early.
Bowel screening is available to everybody aged 56 and over.
The screening programme is for people with no symptoms. If you have symptoms of bowel cancer you must contact your GP directly.
Screening can help to identify cancer earlier than it would have been without screening.
It does not prevent you from getting bowel cancer, but the earlier the condition is found the more likely that treatment will be successful.
The home screening kit is called the faecal immunochemical test (FIT). The kit is sent to you in the post and comes with full instructions.
You use it to collect a small sample of your poo (faeces) on a plastic stick, and send the sample to a laboratory using the bottle provided.
Your poo is tested to see if it contains blood, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.
If you are registered with a GP and you are aged between 56 and 74 you will automatically be sent a home bowel screening kit every two years.
If you are 75 or over you can ask for a kit every two years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.
You use the test kit at home and send your poo sample to a laboratory in the bottle provided.
You may need to go to a hospital but only if your results mean you need further tests.
You should receive your test results in the post within two weeks.
There are two types of result:
No further tests needed: you do not need to do anything, and will be sent another home test kit in two years (until you turn 75). If you have bowel cancer symptoms between tests you should contact your GP.
Further tests needed: this does not necessarily mean you have cancer. You will be invited for further tests (a colonoscopy) to find out what might be causing the blood in your poo.
The FIT test is also used for people who have symptoms of bowel cancer. Your doctor might give you this test as part of the investigation for your symptoms. The FIT results help your doctor decide whether to refer you for more tests.