Bowel Screening

Bowel Cancer Screening

detect bowel cancer early by completing your FIT test


NHS bowel cancer screening checks if you could have bowel cancer. It’s available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years.

You use a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood. The NHS bowel cancer screening kit detects signs of cancer before you notice anything is wrong.

Why is screening offered?

NHS bowel cancer screening is offered to help prevent bowel cancer or help detect it at an early stage, when treatment is likely to be more effective.

The FIT kits can also help to detect polyps. Polyps are a growth in the bowel, non cancerous, however can develop into cancers overtime. Polyps can be easily removed, which reduces the risk of bowel cancer developing.

Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is cancer found anywhere in the large bowel, which includes the colon and rectum. It’s one of the most common types of cancer in the UK.

Who is at risk?

  • you are over 50
  • you are overweight
  • family history of bowel cancer
  • you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Chron’s or ulcerative colitis
  • you are a smoker
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • having type 2 diabetes

What are the symptoms?

  • changes in your poo e.g. softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  • needing to poo more or less than usual
  • blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • often feeling you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
  • tummy pain
  • a lump in your tummy
  • bloating
  • losing weight without trying
  • feeling very tired for no reason

How to use the home test kit

The NHS bowel cancer screening kit use in England is the faecal immunochemical test kit – known as the FIT kit.

Everyone aged 60 to 74 years who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit every 2 years. More recently, the programme is expanding (gradually over 4 years) to include everyone aged 50 to 59 years, so you may receive a test kit before you’re 60.

If you’re over 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.

If you are worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have symptoms, speak to your GP for advice.

Your results

You should receive your results letter within 2 weeks of sending in your sample.

There are two types of results:

This result means:

  • no blood was found in your poo sample, or any 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 be still under 75 by then)

This is no 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.

This result means:

  • blood was found in your poo sample
  • you do not necessarily have bowel cancer (the blood could be the result or something like piles) but you’ll be offered an appointment to talk about having another test called a colonoscopy to look for the cause

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 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