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Bowel screening 60 plus FAQs

If you have any questions about the bowel cancer screening programme, or want to know when you will be screened contact: 0800 707 6060.

What is the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme?

The South of Tyne Bowel Cancer Screening Programme invites men and women aged of 60 to 74 for free screening every two years. The  programme screens people from the areas of Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside, using a home test kit, the FIT test, which looks for hidden blood in stool samples.

What does the programme aim to do?

Bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage (in people with no symptoms), when treatment is more likely to be effective. It does this using the FIT test. This test identifies hidden blood in stool samples that could be caused by a cancer or polyp.

What does bowel cancer screening detect?

Bowel cancer screening can help detect polyps. These are not cancers, but some 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 per cent.

Why is the test important?

The screening can help in the identification and removal of bowel polyps that can develop into cancers over time. By removing polyps the risk of developing bowel cancer is reduced.

Who is offered the screening?

Screening is offered to all men and women who are aged 60 – 74 every two years. To receive an invitation, individuals need to be registered with a GP (General Practitioner) and the GP must have the current address.

How does the programme know to invite me?

The bowel cancer screening programme gets information from all GP’s telling them the age and address of individuals. The programme does not receive any medical details regarding individuals.

Does the invitation system have my medical details?

No, the invitation system has no medical information on individuals; we are not made aware of individuals who may be undergoing investigations or treatment for bowel conditions. If you are unsure if you should complete your FIT test kit please contact us 0800 707 6060.

What should I do if I'm concerned about possible symptoms but I'm not old enough to be offered a test?

Anyone under the age of 60 who is concerned about a symptom or family history should speak to the GP.  

What if i'm over 75 and I'm concerned?

People over 75 you can request a screening kit every 2 years by phoning, free phone 0800 707 6060. But if you are concerned about a symptom, make an appointment and speak to your GP.

I'm in my sixties. What do I have to do to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme?

To take part in the screening programme your GP must have your correct address and date of birth. This information is used to invite individuals. You then receive an invitation and home screening kit through the post. If you are over 60 and have not received a home test kit, you can contact bowel screening by phoning the free phone no: 0800 707 6060.

I'm in the screening age range, and I want my kit now as I'm worried about symptoms.

The screening programme is designed to screen people with no symptoms. If you have symptoms such as a persistent change in bowel habit, pain in your abdomen, bleeding from the back passage, tiredness or weight loss, or if you are worried about your bowel health in any way, then you should not wait for screening but contact your GP.

I'm under the screening age, but I'm worried about symptoms/have a family history of bowel problems. Can I be screened?

No. The English NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is available only to people aged 60 years and over who are based in England. It cannot screen people who are below this age or who live elsewhere.If you are worried about symptoms such as a persistent change in bowel habit, pain in your abdomen, bleeding from the back passage, tiredness or weight loss, or are worried about your bowel health in any way, you should speak to your GP, who can arrange for referral to a specialist if necessary.

My father died of bowel cancer in his fifties. Can I be tested earlier?

Eight out of ten people who get bowel cancer are over the age of sixty so the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is aimed at people aged 60 to 75. If you are concerned about your family history, or risk of developing bowel cancer, you should see your GP. Your GP will discuss your risk and offer appropriate referrals for individual circumstances.

It's more than two years since I was screened but I still haven't received my next screening invitation.

The two year gap between screening invitations is calculated from the date on which your previous screening episode was closed. In some cases (e.g. if you had further tests) this could be several months after you received your screening invitation. This, in turn, could delay your next invitation by several months.

What is a FIT test ?

FIT stands for faecal immunochemical test. The test kit is used to collect a small sample of bowel motions. These samples are then analysed to detect tiny traces of blood, invisible to the naked eye.

Will the FIT test tell me if I have cancer?

No, the FIT test does not diagnose bowel cancer. However the results of the FIT test will show if there is blood in your sample and if you need a colonoscopy examination.

How do I use the screening kit?

For information on using the FIT test kit see publications ‘Bowel cancer screening, kit instructions’ or call the free phone number 0800 707 6060 and the telephonist will be able to advice.

I suffer from haemorrhoids (piles). Will this interfere with the screening test?

If you have haemorrhoids (piles) when you complete the kit, then there's more chance that you will get an abnormal result. An abnormal result may be due to blood from your haemorrhoids or from another bowel condition. Anyone with an abnormal result is offered colonoscopy in order get a diagnosis.

 Can I bring a friend/family member with me when I attend clinic?

Yes. You can bring a friend/family member to support you at you appointments.

English is not my first language, can I have support when attending my appointment/clinic?

Yes, please call us on  0800 707 6060 and we will arrange an interpreter to attend your appointment/clinic.

I have poor mobility and need help to complete the FIT test, can you help?

Yes, please phone the free phone number  0800 707 6060 and we will arrange for one of our specialist screening practitioners to help you complete the FIT test kit.

I am deaf, have a hearing impairment, or visual impairment, how will this affect my treatment?

Please inform us prior to any appointments so we can arrange an interpreter to support you, ensure we have appropriate information (e.g. brail documents) or allocate additional time if needed. Call 0800 707 6060

I have a carer who helps me - can they come with me?

Yes, you can bring a carer to support you attending all your appointments/clinics

I'm worried about constipation/diarrhoea. Can I have the test?

If you have symptoms such as a persistent change in bowel habit, pain in your abdomen, bleeding from the back passage, tiredness or weight loss, or if you are worried about your bowel health in any way, then you should not wait for screening but contact your GP.

I have had bowel surgery. Do I need to continue with bowel screening?

Bowel screening is designed to check the health of the colon. If you have a functioning colon you should complete the screening kit. People with no functioning colon do not need to be screened. If you are unsure whether you have a functioning colon please see the FAQ, How can I tell if I have a functioning colon?

How can I tell if I have a functioning colon?

The colon is part of the digestive system and stores waste material before passing it out through the rectum. People who do not have a functioning colon cannot do this and need to make continuous use of a pouch/colostomy bag. You may have to use a colostomy bag temporarily, e.g. following treatment. If so, you should be screened in the usual way, when invited, once it is removed. If, having read this, you're still unsure whether you have a functioning colon you should check with your GP before accepting a screening invitation.

 I take care of the hygiene needs of a disabled/infirm person. Can I complete the screening kit for them?

If the person you support has asked for help, understands the screening process (including the bowel examination), and does not have a medical condition that means they should not be screened, then the answer is yes. If the person doesn't understand the screening process, and/or doesn't have the capacity to consent to the process please see the below FAQ.

I am a carer, looking after someone who lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions about screening. They have been invited for screening. How should I deal with their invitation?

The recommendation is to discuss with their GP, as he/ she has access to their medical records and knowledge of their overall medical health. In general, however some people's mental capacity varies, in which case the decision about screening should be delayed until the individual is more able to decide for him or herself. But if the person you care for is unable to make their own decisions about screening, then you, as their carer, should make what is called a 'best interests' decision on their behalf (just as you may be making other decisions about their care and treatment). You will need to weigh up the benefits of screening, the possible harms, and what you think the person him or herself would have wanted. Paid carers in particular should get advice from family members or friends about the person's views before coming to a decision.

To find out more about the bowel cancer screening process call the freephone helpline for advice, on 0800 707 60 60.

For more information on making a best interests decision, you can read:


Call us on 0191 482 0000

In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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