Bowel Screening


NHS bowel cancer screening checks if you could have bowel cancer. The free home test is available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years and is now being rolled out over a period of time to everyone over 50. Here, Rosemary talks about what it involves and what hapenned when she had to undergo some further investigations.

Bowel Screening & Colonoscopy

Rosemary explains the importance of taking action when given the opportunity to undergo bowel screening and also the joy of having a colonoscopy!

Bowel Cancer Screening

NHS bowel cancer screening checks if you could have bowel cancer. It’s available to everyone aged 50 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.

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.

If the test finds anything unusual, you might be asked to go to hospital to have further tests, including possibly a colonoscopy to confirm or rule out cancer.

Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age, even if you have recently completed a NHS bowel cancer screening test kit – do not wait to have a screening test.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

The symptoms can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better. More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have 1 of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Constipation, where you pass harder stools less often, is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.

Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer but it’s always worth checking just to be on the safe side.

You can find further information on the NHS website.