Bowel cancer screening

Doctor and nurse with notes 
The bowel cancer screening programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74.

People in the invitation age range are automatically sent a screening kit through the post as long as they are registered with a GP.

Bowel cancer

  • Bowel cancer is also known as colon, rectal or colorectal cancer.
  • It is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths, with over 16,000 people dying from it each year
  • Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer
  • Risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age, 8 out of 10 cancers are diagnosed in people over 60 years

Visit the NHS Choices website for more information >>

Bowel cancer symptoms

The most common symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • A pain or lump in your tummy
  • Blood in your poo or looser poo
  • Bleeding from the back passage without any obvious reason
  • Persistent change in bowel habit or diarrhoea for several weeks
  • Feeling more tired than usual for some time
  • Losing weight for no obvious reason

Individuals worried about risks and symptoms, including those outside the screening age group, should contact their GP.

Not all symptoms mean its bowel cancer. They can be due to other conditions, which may still need treatment. But don’t try to diagnose yourself. Go and see your doctor now to find out for sure. If you know anyone with any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.

Find out more about bowel cancer symptoms >>

Bowel cancer screening for people aged 60 – 74 years

  • The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage (in people with no symptoms), when treatment is more likely to be effective
  • The Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBt) bowel cancer test kit aims to detect tiny amount of blood that cannot normally see in your bowel motion (poo)
  • Bowel cancer screening can also detect polyps. These are not cancers, but may develop into cancers over time. They can easily be removed, reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing
  • Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%

If you are over the invitation age range (60–74), you can request a screening kit by calling Freephone 0800 707 6060.

How is the screening carried out?

Bowel cancer screening test kit can be completed in the privacy of your home. Please follow the link for a video of how to complete the test kit.

You can also find more information in a variety of languages here.

What happens if the bowel screening result is abnormal?

  • If the result of your faecal occult blood test (FOBt) is positive you will be offered an initial appointment with a Specialist Screening Practitioner at South East London Bowel Cancer Screening Centre based at Lewisham Hospital who will provide advice and refer you for a  colonoscopy examination
  • A colonoscopy is an investigation that involves looking directly at the lining of the large bowel. A thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera is attached (colonoscopy) is passed into your back passage and guided around your bowel
  • If polyps are found, most can be removed painlessly, using a wire loop passed down the colonoscopy tube
  • About four in 10 people that consent for colonoscopy examination will be found to have a polyp, which if removed may prevent cancer developing

How can the department be contacted?

To contact the South East London Bowel Cancer Screening Centre please use the following contact details:

T: 0208 333 3038
F: 0208 333 3234

Postal address:

Bowel Cancer Screening Office
Second Floor
Pink Zone
Lewisham Hospital
Lewisham High Street
Greater London
SE13 6LH

For a location map and directions please visit the how to get here section.

What else do you need to know?

  • If you have been invited for bowel cancer screening, and have any questions about the bowel cancer test kit, you should call the freephone number 0800 707 6060.
  • You can get more information about the bowel cancer screening programme from the Cancer Screening website. Information is available in a variety of languages.