Bowel screening

If caught early bowel cancer can be treated in 90% of cases

Despite this, it is the UK's second biggest cancer killer and in some parts of London, only 1 in 10 people know that a change in their bowel habit could be a sign of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage (in people with no symptoms), when treatment is more likely to be effective. It can also detect polyps, which may develop into cancer over time. They can easily be removed, reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing.

Getting screened

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers free screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74 years.

If you are between 60 and 74, you will automatically be sent a free, easy to use screening kit by post. The kit provides a simple way for you to collect small samples of your bowel motions. You wipe the samples on a special card, which you then send in a hygienically sealed Freepost envelope to a laboratory for testing. There are detailed instructions with each kit. You will get a response from the laboratory within two weeks of sending in your sample.

Anyone over the age of 75 can request a screening kit by phoning the Free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.

Routine screening isn't offered to people under 60 years of age, so if you think you may be at an increased risk of bowel cancer and you are not yet eligible for screening, speak to your GP about your options.

Are you concerned?

The main symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • blood in your poo
  • persistent diarrhoea
  • severe abdominal pain
  • lump in your tummy
  • unexplained weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms for four to six weeks, you should see your GP. Please remember that these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer.

Useful links

Other MyLife pages:Breast screening, Cervical screening, Diabetic retinopathy screening

External websites:The NHS Bowel Screening Programme, NHS Choices - Bowel Cancer