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 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.
NHS screening kits are not available for people under 60.
How to use the kit
There are 2 different kits in use in England:
- the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit
- the faecal occult blood (FOB) test kit
From June 2019, people will be sent a FIT kit, which will replace the FOB kit.
With this kit, you collect 1 sample of poo in a small plastic sample bottle and post it back to a laboratory for testing.
There are instructions with the kit. You can also read the kit instructions online.
The FOB test
With this kit, you 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.
There are 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 do not 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 is not a guarantee that you do not 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.
You'll only get an unclear result with a FOB kit.
An unclear FOB kit 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 do not 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 do not necessarily have bowel cancer (the blood could be the result of 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 has not arrived when you expected it
- you have not had your result after 2 weeks from when you sent off your kit
- you want to know more about screening
- you do not want to be invited for bowel cancer screening
The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has guides about: