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Home screening kit
NHS Choices information on what happens during bowel cancer screening.
The bowel cancer screening test for people aged 60 or over is a kit you use at home.
This is used to check for tiny amounts of blood in your poo. It doesn't diagnose bowel cancer, but it's a simple way to find out if you need further tests.
It's also called the faecal occult blood (FOB) test.
How to get a screening kit
All men and women aged 60 to 74 who are registered with a GP in England are automatically sent a bowel cancer screening kit every 2 years.
Make sure your GP has the 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.
NHS screening kits aren't available for people under 60.
How to use the kit
The screening kit provides a simple way for you to collect small samples of your poo and wipe them on a special card.
You take 2 samples of poo on 3 separate occasions and send them back in a sealed envelope for testing in a laboratory.
This may sound embarrassing or unpleasant, but it only takes a few minutes and is a proven way to check if you could have cancer.
There are detailed instructions with each kit. You can also read the kit instructions online.
Your result should be posted to you within 2 weeks of sending off your kit. There are 3 types of result:
A normal result means:
- no blood was found in your poo sample
- you don't need to do anything
- you'll be invited to do another screening test in 2 years (if you'll still be under 75 by then)
This isn't a guarantee that you don't have bowel cancer. See a GP if you get symptoms of bowel cancer at any point.
About 98 in 100 people get a normal result.
An unclear result means:
- there may have been a little bit of blood in your poo sample
- you'll be asked to repeat the test 1 or 2 more times to help get a clear result
- you don't need to do anything else unless you get an abnormal result after repeating the test
Most people with an unclear test result get a normal result after repeating it.
An abnormal result means:
- blood was found in your poo sample
- you don't necessarily have bowel cancer – the blood could be due to something like piles – but you'll be offered another test called a colonoscopy to check
A colonoscopy is where a thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted into your bottom to look for signs of bowel cancer.
The bowel cancer screening programme has a leaflet on the colonoscopy test. You can also watch a video of what happens during a colonoscopy.
About 2 in 100 people get an abnormal result.
More information and advice
Call the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60 if:
- your kit hasn't arrived when you expected it
- you haven't got your result after 2 weeks from when you sent off your kit
- you want to know more about screening
- you don't want to be invited for bowel cancer screening
The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has guides about: