Who is invited?
We offer bowel cancer screening using a home testing kit to everyone in England from the age of 60. We offer screening every 2 years between the ages of 60 and 74. If you are over 74, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by calling a free helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
What does the Test Involve?
We send you an invitation letter and this leaflet. The information is to help you choose whether to take part in screening. Then we send you a faecal immunochemical test, or ‘FIT kit’ for short. It detects blood in your poo (blood you would not notice by eye). We look for blood because polyps and bowel cancers sometimes bleed.
Finding blood doesn’t diagnose bowel cancer but it means you need further tests (usually a bowel examination). Most people’s screening result shows they do not need any further tests.
Some people will need further tests. If this is the case for you, we will offer you an appointment to talk about having a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy looks at the inside of your bowel. We use colonoscopy to find the source of the blood.
Using the FIT kit
You use the FIT kit in the privacy of your home. It’s a simple way to collect a tiny sample of poo. The kit is a small plastic bottle with a stick attached inside the lid. You use the stick to collect the sample, which you seal into the bottle. There are instructions with each kit. Once used, you post the kit in its prepaid packaging to a laboratory for processing. Using the kit takes just a few minutes and it’s an easy and effective way to screen for early bowel cancer.
If you’re not sure whether you should use the kit, please call a free helpline on 0800 707 60 60 for advice. For example, if you have had surgery and have an artificial opening that allows poo from the bowel to pass into a bag (a stoma) then you might want to call us.
Bowel Screening Results
You should receive a results letter within 2 weeks of sending in your sample. There are 2 possible results.
- No Further Tests needed at this time
Most people (about 98 out of 100) have this result. It means that we did not find any blood in your sample, or only a tiny amount which is within the screening range.
This result does not guarantee that you do not have bowel cancer, or that it will never develop in the future. Being aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer is very important.
We will offer you bowel cancer screening again in 2 years’ time if you are under the age of 75.
- Further Tests needed
About 2 in every 100 people have this result. It means we found an amount of blood in your poo above the screening range. This does not mean that you have cancer, but it does mean we will offer you an appointment to discuss having a colonoscopy. Several
things can cause blood in poo, such as:
- haemorrhoids (piles)
- bowel polyps
- bowel cancer
Having further tests means we can look for the cause of the blood.
What are the symptoms of Bowel Cancer?
Symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- blood in your poo
- looser poo, pooing more often and/or constipation
- a pain or lump in your tummy
- feeling more tired than usual for some time
- losing weight for no obvious reason
Please remember that these symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer. But if you have any of these symptoms for 3 weeks or more, please speak with your GP. It is important to do this even if you have recently had bowel
cancer screening and/or a colonoscopy. Bowel cancer screening is not a test for symptoms.
What can I do to reduce my Risk?
Having bowel cancer screening reduces your risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least 25%.*
You can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer by:
- keeping physically active
- keeping a healthy weight
- eating plenty of fibre, for example choose wholegrain and wholemeal foods
- eating plenty of vegetables and fruit
- eating less red meat and especially less processed meat
- drinking less alcohol
- not smoking
Further information can be found at:
- Your GP
- Visit: www.nhs.uk/bowel
- Visit: www.gov.uk and search for "Bowel Cancer Screening"
- If you are 75 or over and would like a FIT kit, please call our free
helpline on 0800 707 60 60. You can ask for a kit every 2 years.
- Colonoscopy Leaflet - Visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/bowel-cancer-screening-colonoscopy
- Information for Transgender and Non-binary people about NHS population screening programmes is available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-population-screening-information-for-transgender-people
- Bowel Screening Leaflet: www.gov.uk/phe/bowel-screening-leaflet