Bowel Cancer Screening


Bowel cancer is the term used for cancer that begins in the large bowel. It is also called colorectal cancer. Bowel cancer often starts from small growths in the bowel called polyps. Polyps do not usually cause symptoms but some might turn into bowel cancer if they are not removed. The bowel, also known as the intestine, helps to digest the food
you eat. After food has gone through the bowel, all that is left is poo. Bowel cancer is the 3rd most common type of cancer. About 1 in every 18 people will get bowel cancer in their lifetime. Both men and women are at risk. Bowel cancer is more common in older people — most people who get it are over the age of 55. Screening can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat. For every 300 people screened, it stops 2 from getting bowel cancer and saves 1 life from bowel.


FIT Tests are currently recommended for patients aged 60 to 74 years. The bowel screening programme is expanding so that everyone aged 50 to 59 years will be eligible for screening. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021 with 56 year olds. The programme has also started to include 58 year olds, so you may get a test before you’re 60. Men and women at age 55-56 are invited to take part in a one off test called a flexible sigmoidoscopy.


You will automatically receive a faecal immunochemical test kit, known as the FIT kit, in the post, when elegible, from the NHS and you will automaticaly be invited to take part in a flexible sigmoidoscopy when you turn 55 years old. For the FIT test, you collect a small sample of poo on a small plastic stick and put it into the sample bottle and post it to a lab for testing. There are instructions that come with the kit. You can also find NHS bowel cancer screening kit instructions on GOV.UK. If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

Your test result

Your test result should be posted to you within 2 weeks of sending off your kit.

There are 2 types of result:

  1. No further tests needed
  2. Further tests needed

No further tests needed

This result means:

  • no blood was found in your poo sample, or only a tiny amount was found
  • you do not need to do anything at this time
  • you’ll be invited to do another screening test in 2 years (if you’ll still be 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 2 in 100 people are asked to have further tests.

More information and advice

Call the free NHS bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60 if:

  • you have not had your result after 2 weeks from when you sent off your kit
  • you want to know more about screening (you do not need to call the helpline when you become eligible for screening – you’ll be contacted)
  • you do not want to be invited for NHS bowel cancer screening


For patients who have already started the pathway there is a dedicated email for questions relating to their endoscopic procedure or post procedure care

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has information in other formats, including

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