Bowel cancer screening

About

The aims of our two bowel cancer screening services are to look for evidence of disease in healthy individuals with no known symptoms, and to detect the disease at an early stage, when there is a better chance of successful treatment.

Screening for bowel cancer is not a diagnostic test, although an abnormal result suggests an increased risk of having polyps (a type of abnormal growth) or early cancer. In addition, a normal test does not exclude cancer, so it is important to talk to your GP if you have any symptoms, such as diarrhoea. If polyps are discovered through screening, they must be removed. Removing polyps prevents the development of cancer and early detection of established disease results in a better chance of successful treatment. 

If you are eligible to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme you will receive an invitation for bowel scope at aged 55 years and a faecal occult blood test (FOBt) kit in the post every two years between the ages of 60 and 74 years. People between the age of 55 and 59 years can request a bowel scope test (if this has not already been done) and people over the the age of 74 years can request an FOBt kit. For either it is necessary to contact the London Bowel Cancer Screening Hub at St Mark’s Hospital.

Contact details

If you have been invited for bowel cancer screening and have any questions about the FOBt or the bowel scope test please call the free phone number on the information leaflet that came with your letter. 

If you are worried about a specific problem or symptom, or otherwise worried about the risks of bowel cancer, please talk to your GP.

Investigations we offer

Bowel scope offers a limited examination of the bowel, called a flexible sigmoidoscopy. You will receive an invitation to participate in the screening and, if you decide to proceed, you will be sent an appointment to have the test performed, and you can call to change this time. No sedation is required and no dietary restrictions are necessary prior to the test. The only bowel preparation is an enema that will be sent to you and that you can administer at home prior to coming to hospital. If you prefer we are able to give you the enema in the endoscopy unit.

In the FOBt programme a kit will be sent to you that can be completed at home and returned via post. The FOBt checks for the presence of a tiny amount of blood in your bowel motions that could be a sign of a polyp or bowel cancer, which sometimes causes bleeding. The test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will indicate whether you need further investigation, usually a colonoscopy.

If your sample is normal, i.e. no blood is detected, we will let you know and there is nothing more you need to do. You will be invited to participate in the screening programme again in two years time.

If your sample is abnormal, i.e. if blood is detected, you will be offered an appointment at a screening centre to be assessed by a specialist screening practitioner for a further test, usually a colonoscopy.

Further online resources

Referrals