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Bowel Screening

 9 out of 10 people beat bowel cancer when it’s caught early.

Why should I be screened?

Bowel cancer kills more people in Scotland than any other cancer, except lung cancer. 1,600 people die of it every year. It's more common in people over 50 years of age, especially men. The reason so many people die is because the early signs are often hidden, which means it’s often not found until it’s too late.

But the good news is that when it is found early, bowel cancer’s much easier to treat. In fact, 9 out of 10 people beat it when it’s caught early.

The best way to find it early is to do the bowel cancer home screening test, which is quick, easy and can be done in the privacy of your own home – nobody else needs to know!

If you’re between 50 and 74, you’ll receive a bowel screening kit in the post every two years.

If you're 75 or over you can still take a test every two years if you want to, but you'll need to request a kit by calling 0800 0121 833.

If you’re worried you might have bowel cancer symptoms [ Get Checked Early - What to look out for ], don’t wait for your home screening kit – contact your GP straight away.

If you would like information about bowel screening in a language other than English, or in an alternative format, click here

How do I use my home screening kit?

In Scotland, the bowel screening test was updated in November 2017 to make it quicker and easier to use.

If you received one of the old bowel screening tests (before 20 November 2017) and have not yet completed it, you'll need to request a new test kit if you want to complete a test.

The new bowel screening test kit includes:

  • a small test tube to collect your poo sample
  • full instructions to help you complete the test
  • a pre-paid envelope

To collect your sample:

Catch your poo using toilet paper or a container.
Twist the top of the test to open it - the lid of the test has a stick attached.
Take a small sample of poo using the stick.
Replace the lid of the test and close.
Flush the toilet paper or bag and bin any container used.

Here's a video about how to use your kit  

After collecting your sample, you should put the finished test in the pre-paid envelope and post it as soon as possible. It will then go to the Scottish Bowel Screening Centre laboratory for testing, and results will be sent back to you directly within two weeks.

If your test results need further investigation, you will be referred to hospital for further tests, such as a colonoscopy.

If you're invited for a colonoscopy, you'll receive information about the benefits and risks of the procedure before your appointment.

I’m worried about my screening.

Whether or not to take your bowel screening test is, of course, entirely up to you. You may be reading this because you are trying to decide whether to take the test. Here are the answers to some common questions, worries or myths which might help you decide.

More information about bowel cancer can also be found here :

[ NHS Inform - Cancer types in Adults - Bowel Cancer ]   


Q. I threw out my last test, but now I’ve changed my mind and want to take it. What do I do?


If you have thrown out, lost or made a mistake with your screening test don’t worry, you can request a replacement simply by calling the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on 0800 0121 833.

Q. What if I need a colonoscopy? Isn’t that horrible?


While a colonoscopy probably isn’t going to be the most pleasant experience you’ve ever had, it’s nothing to worry about, and only takes around an hour. It can be a little uncomfortable, but isn’t usually painful, as you’ll be offered painkillers and a sedative to help you relax.

You can find out everything you need to know about colonoscopies here [ Tests - Colonoscopy ]

Q. I’m too scared to find out I have bowel cancer. If I do, I don’t want to know.


Cancer is scary, so we get how you feel, but if it’s found early enough, bowel cancer is highly treatable. In fact, you’re 9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if it’s caught in its earliest stage, and screening is the best way to catch bowel cancer early.

Q. Isn’t it a bit yucky to send a sample of poo through the post?


If you close the lid of the test properly, the test will be sealed and should be completely hygienic.

Q. I’m not digging around in my own poo – that’s disgusting!


Yes, we know – it’s not pleasant. But it’s no worse than changing a baby’s nappy, and it will all be over in a few minutes.

Q. I eat a healthy diet and don’t drink, and I have no symptoms, so I’m not really at risk. I don’t think I’ll bother taking the test.


While a healthy lifestyle will lower your risk of bowel cancer, it unfortunately doesn’t mean it can’t happen. The early symptoms are often hidden, so it’s still a good idea to take the test even if you feel fit and healthy.

How do I get screened?

Everyone between the ages of 50 and 74 will automatically receive a bowel screening kit through the post every two years.

If you have made a mistake or misplaced your screening test, you can request a replacement by calling the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on 0800 0121 833.

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