What is bowel screening?
Bowel screening aims to find bowel cancer at an early stage in people who have no symptoms. Bowel screening is a simple home test (called a FIT – faecal immunochemical test) that looks for tiny amounts of blood, which are not visible to the eye, in your poo (also known as a stool). Blood in your poo can be due to a number of causes or minor conditions. But it can also be an early warning sign that something might be wrong. The bowel screening test does not tell you if you have bowel cancer but it might tell you that you need more tests.
BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme will send an invitation to men and women aged 60 to 69. As the risk of bowel cancer increases with age, by taking part in the programme every two years, it is more possible that if bowel cancer occurs it will be found at an early stage when there is a much better chance of treating it successfully.
Bowel screening may also find other changes in the bowel, such as polyps. Polyps are small growths that are not cancer but, if not removed, might turn into cancer over time. If polyps are found, they can be removed easily.
If you have any concerns about your bowel health or symptoms you should contact your GP immediately.
Taking part in BowelScreen
The BowelScreen programme will send an invitation to men and women aged 60 to 69 years to take part in the programme.
If you are aged between 60 to 69 years and living in Ireland, you can ring BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 55 to check your details are on the register. When your details are on the register you will, within two years, receive an invitation to take part in the BowelScreen programme. It may take up to two years for all people on the register to receive an invitation. You can also check the register online here.
In the meantime if you have any concerns or symptoms at any time please see your GP.
How is the BowelScreen home test done?
You do the test in your own home. BowelScreen will send you a letter asking you to take part in the bowel screening programme. When you get a letter and you want to take part, call BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 55. A BowelScreen home test kit will be sent to you in the post with instructions about how to do the test.
You will need to produce a poo (stool or bowel motion) and collect a sample on a sampling stick provided in your BowelScreen home test kit. A small sample is all that is needed. There is no need to be embarrassed. It will only take one visit to the toilet. It is quick, easy and painless.
Please ensure that the label is dated with the day the sample was taken as this is very important.
It is free to post the sample in the Freepost envelope provided.
If you have any problems or need more information you can call BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 55.
Can I have a test if I am aged under 60 or over 69 years?
No. BowelScreen currently offer bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69.
Anyone who has any concerns, or experiences possible symptoms of bowel cancer should contact their GP immediately.
I have concerns or symptoms should I wait to get my invitation?
No. If you have any concerns or have one or more of the possible symptoms of bowel cancer, you should see your GP immediately. Do not wait to receive your BowelScreen home test.
If I have a current bowel condition or had recent surgery – should I take part in BowelScreen at this time?
Yes. If you are currently having treatment or have had a bowel condition or surgery or indeed you are concerned for other medical reasons, you should ask your GP for further advice on whether it is appropriate for you to take part in the BowelScreen programme at this time.
Bowel screening results
Once you have sent back your test sample, you will get a letter with the results of your BowelScreen home test in four weeks. 95% of people will have a normal result.
If your BowelScreen home test results shows traces of blood, even if these that are not visible to the eye, you will be offered a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is the best way to diagnose bowel cancer and other conditions.
A colonoscopy is carried out in a screening colonoscopy unit in a hospital organised by BowelScreen.