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Bowel cancer screening

Posted on February 23rd, 2023

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

The programme is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50 to 59 years. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021. 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 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.

Why screening is offered

Regular NHS bowel cancer screening reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is the 4th most common type of cancer. Screening can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat.

How to get a home test 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. The programme is expanding so that everyone aged 50 to 59 years will be eligible for screening. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021 with 56 year olds. The programme has also started to include 58 year olds, so you may get a test before you’re 60.

Make sure your GP practice has your correct address so your kit is posted to the right place.  If you’re 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’re worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have any symptoms, speak to a GP for advice.

How to use the home test kit

The NHS bowel cancer screening kit used in England is the faecal immunochemical test kit – known as the FIT kit.  You collect a small sample of poo on a small plastic stick and put it into the sample bottle and post it to a lab for testing.  There are instructions that come with the kit.

You can also find NHS bowel cancer screening kit instructions on GOV.UK

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