Why is bowel screening important?

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. If it’s detected and treated at an early stage, the prospects for recovery are far better. But the symptoms of early bowel cancer are difficult to spot.

What is the bowel screening process?

Everyone aged 60 to 74 (plus 56 and 58-year-olds) will automatically receive a home testing kit every two years if they are registered with a GP.
It’s called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) and collects a small sample of poo to send to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer but may turn into cancer over time.

How to use the FIT home test kit:

A small stool sample can be collected on a small plastic stick and put into the sample bottle and post it to a lab for testing. 

Every kit will include instructions on how to:

  • Collect a small sample of stool on the plastic stick
  • Put it in the sample bottle
  • Post to the lab for testing

The results of the test will be posted within two weeks.

If the results state that no further tests are needed, this result means:

  • No blood was found in the sample, or only a tiny amount was found.
  • You do not need to do anything at this time.
  • You may be invited to do another screening test in two years (if under 75 by then).

This is not a guarantee that you do not have bowel cancer. See a GP if you have or get symptoms of bowel cancer, even if you have already done a screening kit. About 98 in 100 people do not need further tests.

If the results state that further tests are needed, this result means:

  • Blood was found in the sample.
  • You do not necessarily have bowel cancer but you’ll be offered an appointment to talk about having another test called a colonoscopy to look for the cause.

If the home test finds anything unusual, the individual will be invited to a follow up appointment and told about a test called a colonoscopy. This is where a thin tube with a camera inside is passed into the bottom to look for signs of bowel cancer.

The video below illustrates how to use the FIT bowel testing kit.

Download the bowel screening pathway diagram below or for more information from the NHS on the bowel cancer screening process click here.

Where can people access bowel screening?

Bowel screening is done at home unless you require further testing. If this is the case contact your GP for further guidance.

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