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Bowel screening

Take advantage of bowel screening tests

Bowel screening helps to spot bowel cancer early, before you have symptoms, and can even prevent you getting bowel cancer in the first place.  

Screening looks for early signs of cancer in people who do not have symptoms. If you have any of the possible symptoms of bowel cancer see your GP straight away. Don't wait for a screening appointment. 

The risk of bowel cancer, like most other cancers, increases with age.  If you’re aged 60-74, look out for your bowel screening kit in the post. If you are aged 75 and over, or haven’t received a kit in the last two years, call 0800 707 6060 to request one. Sending in samples could save your life.

 

Why is it important to take advantage of bowel screening tests?

Regular bowel screening has been shown to increase the chances of surviving bowel cancer.  The programme is predicted to save 2000 lives a year in the UK.

Bowel screening helps to spot cancer early.  It can even prevent it starting in the first place.  This is because it can help to find little growths called polyps, which could develop into cancer.  These can be removed easily to reduce the risk of bowel cancer developing.

 

What does bowel screening involve?

If you’re aged 60-74, look out for your bowel screening kit in the post.  This is an easy way to collect samples of your poo for testing.  Wipe the small samples on the special card provided in the privacy of your own toilet or bathroom, and send the kit to the lab in the hygienically sealed freepost envelope. The samples will then be tested for hidden traces of blood which, because polyps and bowel cancers sometimes bleed, could be a sign of bowel cancer or potential bowel cancer.

You can find out more details about what’s involved from the NHS bowel screening video. Please note that this was made before the age range for being sent screening kits routinely was extended to 74. 

 

I’m worried about symptoms; how can I order my bowel screening kit now? 

Bowel screening is for people who haven’t got symptoms; if you have symptoms you’re worried about, it’s important to see your GP straight away.

 

Will the test tell me if I have bowel cancer?

No. The test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will show whether you need an examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy). 

 

When do I get my results?

You should receive a results letter from the laboratory within two weeks of sending in your sample. 

 

What do the results mean?

There are three types of results you could receive.

  1. A normal result means that blood was not found in your test sample. Most people (about 98 out of 100) will receive this reassuring news. A small number of these people will have repeated the test due to an unclear result beforehand.  After a normal result it’s still important to look out for the warning signs of bowel cancer.
  2. An unclear result means there was a slight suggestion of blood in your FOB test sample.  This could have been caused by conditions such as haemorrhoids (piles) or stomach ulcers. Receiving an unclear result does not mean you have cancer, just that you need to repeat the test up to two more times. This is necessary because polyps and cancers do not bleed all the time, and it is important to find out whether or not there is blood in your poo. About four people out of every 100 will initially receive an unclear result, but most people who repeat the test will then receive a normal result.
  3. An abnormal result shows that blood may have been found in your test sample – it is not a diagnosis of cancer, but it does mean that you will be offered a colonoscopy. Bleeding from bowel polyps, rather than a bowel cancer, may have caused the abnormal result. It may also have been caused by other conditions, such as haemorrhoids (piles).

About two in every 100 people doing the test will have an abnormal result. Sometimes, someone with an abnormal result will have repeated the test due to a previous unclear result.  If you receive an abnormal result, you will be offered an appointment with a specialist screening practitioner at a local screening centre, to discuss having a more detailed examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy), to see whether or not there is a problem that may need treatment.

 

How reliable is bowel cancer screening?

Bowel cancer screening is a reliable test, but like all screening tests, it is not 100% reliable.

There is a chance that a cancer can be missed if it was not bleeding when the screening test was taken.

Bowel cancer may also start to develop in the two years between screening tests, which is why it is always important to be aware of and watchful for the symptoms of bowel cancer.

 

I’m aged over 75 and no longer getting a screening kit sent to me routinely – what should I do?

If you’re aged 75 and over, call 0800 707 6060 to request a kit. Sending in samples could save your life.

 

I haven’t sent in a kit in the last two years

Call 0800 707 6060 to request a kit. Sending in samples could save your life.

 

Where can I find further information on bowel screening?

Further information on bowel screening is available from the NHS Bowel Screening Programme

Take advantage of bowel screening tests
Bowel screening helps to spot bowel cancer early, before you have symptoms, and can even prevent you getting bowel cancer in the first place.  
Screening looks for early signs of cancer in people who do not have symptoms. If you have any of the possible symptoms of bowel cancer (link) see your GP straight away. Don't wait for a screening appointment. 
The risk of bowel cancer, like most other cancers, increases with age.  If you’re aged 60-74, look out for your bowel screening kit in the post. If you are aged 75 and over, or haven’t received a kit in the last two years, call 0800 707 6060 to request one. Sending in samples could save your life.
Why is it important to take advantage of bowel screening tests?
Regular bowel screening has been shown to increase the chances of surviving bowel cancer.  It is a relatively new screening programme, which once fully established is predicted to save 2000 lives a year in the UK.
Bowel screening helps to spot cancer early.  It can even prevent it starting in the first place.  This is because it can help to find little growths called polyps, which could develop into cancer.  These can be removed easily to reduce the risk of bowel cancer developing.
What does bowel screening involve?
If you’re aged 60-74, look out for your bowel screening kit in the post.  This is an easy way to collect samples of your poo for testing.  Wipe the small samples on the special card provided in the privacy of your own toilet or bathroom, and send the kit to the lab in the hygienically sealed freepost envelope. The samples will then be tested for hidden traces of blood, which because polyps and bowel cancers sometimes bleed, that could be a sign of bowel cancer or potential bowel cancer.
You can find out more details about what’s involved from the NHS bowel screening video (link) http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/bowel/publications/video/bowel-screening-kit-cartoon.html Please note that this was made before the age range for being sent screening kits routinely was extended to 74. 
I’m worried about symptoms; how can I order my bowel screening kit now? 
Bowel screening is for people who haven’t got symptoms; if you have symptoms (link) you’re worried about, it’s important to see your GP straight away.
Will the test tell me if I have bowel cancer?
No.  The test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will show whether you need an examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy). 
When do I get my results?
You should receive a results letter from the laboratory within two weeks of sending in your sample. 
What do the results mean?
There are three types of results you could receive.
1. A normal result means that blood was not found in your test sample. Most people (about 98 out of 100) will receive this reassuring news. A small number of these people will have repeated the test due to an unclear result beforehand.  After a normal result it’s still important to look out for the warning signs of bowel cancer (link).
2. An unclear result means there was a slight suggestion of blood in your FOB test sample.  This could have been caused by conditions such as haemorrhoids (piles) or stomach ulcers. Receiving an unclear result does not mean you have cancer, just that you need to repeat the test up to two more times. This is necessary because polyps and cancers do not bleed all the time, and it is important to find out whether or not there is blood in your poo. About four people out of every 100 will initially receive an unclear result, but most people who repeat the test will then receive a normal result.
3. An abnormal result shows that blood may have been found in your test sample – it is not a diagnosis of cancer, but it does mean that you will be offered a colonoscopy. Bleeding from bowel polyps, rather than a bowel cancer, may have caused the abnormal result. It may also have been caused by other conditions, such as haemorrhoids (piles).
About two in every 100 people doing the test will have an abnormal result. Sometimes, someone with an abnormal result will have repeated the test due to a previous unclear result.  If you receive an abnormal result, you will be offered an appointment with a specialist screening practitioner at a local screening centre, to discuss having a more detailed examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy), to see whether or not there is a problem that may need treatment.
How reliable is bowel cancer screening?
Bowel cancer screening is a reliable test, but like all screening tests, it is not 100% reliable.
There is a chance that a cancer can be missed if it was not bleeding when the screening test was taken.
Bowel cancer may also start to develop in the two years between screening tests, which is why it is always important to be aware of and watchful for the symptoms of bowel cancer (link).
I’m aged over 75 and no longer getting a screening kit sent to me routinely – what should I do?
If you’re aged 75 and over, call 0800 707 6060 to request a kit. Sending in samples could save your life.
I haven’t sent in a kit in the last two years
Call 0800 707 6060 to request a kit. Sending in samples could save your li