The NHS sends out free home test kits, called faecal immunochemical test (FIT), to eligible people to collect a small sample of poo and to send to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood. The tests are for people with no symptoms and most people get the all-clear.
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 and 58-year-olds in London invited from May 2022.
This home testing kit was introduced in June 2019 across England and is easier and more convenient to use than the previous bowel cancer screening test.
To do the test, you use the kit to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer but may turn into cancer over time.
Ninety-eight out of 100 people who do the test get the all-clear. Two out of 100 are asked to go to hospital for further tests. Nine out of 100 people who have these further tests turn out to have cancer.
If people have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age, they should always see a GP, even if they have recently completed an NHS bowel cancer screening test. Symptoms of bowel cancer include one or more of the following: a persistent change in bowel habit, blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids), abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating.