Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer is a term used to describe cancer in the colon, rectum or the small bowel.
The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your stools
- A change in normal bowel habits to diarrhoea or looser stools, lasting longer than 4 to 6 weeks
- A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or abdomen (more commonly on the right side)
- A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you needed to pass a bowel motion)
- Losing weight
- Pain in your abdomen or back passage
- A lower than normal level of red blood cells (anaemia)
Because bowel tumours can bleed, cancer of the bowel often causes a shortage of red blood cells. This is called anaemia and may cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
How do I get a screening 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.
Your test result
Your test result should be posted to you within 2 weeks of sending off your kit.
There are 2 types of result:
- No further tests needed
- Further tests needed
Macmillan cancer support
Have questions about cancer? Visit www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 000 free (Monday to Friday 9am – 8pm).