Bowel Cancer Screening

About 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime. It is the third most common cancer in the UK and the second leading cause of cancer deaths (Cancer Research UK 2010 stats).

Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%.

Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective.

The NHS Screening Programme offers screening every 2 years to men and women aged 60-74 years.

For more information

How to be screened:

  • Aged 60-74 years and registered with a GP in North Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire - you will be sent a letter asking if you would like to be screened - make sure your GP has your correct contact details
  • Aged 75 years and above - request a test kit by telephone 0800 707 60 60 or visit
  • Aged 59 years or under - talk to your GP if you are concerned about bowel cancer

You can be sent a screening kit so the test can be done at home.

The test detects tiny amounts of blood you can't normally see in your bowel motions - called Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test.

Polyps and bowel cancers sometimes bleed, which is why we screen for blood in your bowel motions.

The FOB test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will tell you whether you need an examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy)

The screening can also detect polyps - these are not cancers, but may develop onto cancers overtime. They can be easily removed, reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing. 

The test is simple to complete:

  • Small samples of bowel motion are collected in the privacy of your home

  • The test kit is returned to the laboratory in a specially designed prepaid envelope

  • The laboratory analyses the sample and issues the results

You should receive a results letter from the laboratory within 2 weeks of sending in your sample.

There are 3 types of results you could receive:

  • Normal result (about 98 people out of 100) - blood was not found in your test sample, this does not guarantee you do not have or will not develop bowel cancer in the future, so being aware of the symptoms is still important. You will be offered screening again in 2 years
  • Unclear result - (about 4 people out of 100) - there was a slight suggestion of blood in your Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test sample. this can be caused by conditions such as haemorrhoids (piles) or stomach ulcers. An unclear result does not mean you have cancer, just you need to repeat the FOB test. Most people who repeat the test go on to receive a normal result
  • Abnormal result (about 2 people out of 100) - this shows blood may have been found in your FOB test sample - it is not a diagnosis of bowel cancer - but it does mean you will be offered a colonoscopy to see if there is a problem that may need treatment.


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