Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the third commonest malignancy in the UK and the second biggest cause of cancer deaths. About 1 in 20 people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. Screening can reduce the chance of dying from bowel cancer by detecting cancers at an early stage and by removing polyps (abnormal outgrowths of tissue from the bowel lining) before they can turn cancerous.

In the UK people aged between 60 and 75 years old are invited to take part every two years  in the NHS National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. They are sent an FOB (faecal occult blood) test kit which involves submitting three stool samples for analysis for the presence of tiny amounts of blood. Ninety-eight percent of people will have a negative test result, whilst four percent will have an unclear result requiring repeat testing. The two percent of people with a positive FOB result will require a colonoscopy (special telescope test of the large bowel). At colonoscopy 5 out of 10 people will have a normal examination, 4 out of 10 people will have polyps (which are usually removed) and 1 out of 10 people will be found to have bowel cancer.