April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

25 April 2019 - Hear from our Bowel Cancer Screening Practitioners about the screening process and what it involves

Shendelen and Marianne

What are your roles?

We are the Screening Practitioners and we support the Bowel Scope Endoscopists during the procedure and record key clinical information. We aim to support patients’ health and well-being, promote the service, and provide education to the public regarding the screening programme.

What does bowel screening involve?

People aged 60 to 74, who are registered with a GP, are automatically sent a screening kit every two years. The test, called the faecal occult blood (FOB) test is used to check for tiny amounts of blood in your poo. It doesn’t diagnose bowel cancer but is a simple way to identify if you need further tests.

If your result came back ‘normal’ you don’t need to do anything and you’ll be invited to another screening test in two years. If your result comes back ‘unclear’ there may have been a bit of blood in your sample, you’ll be asked to repeat the test one or two more times to help get a clear result. If you get an abnormal result it means that blood was found in your sample, this could be due to something like piles and doesn’t necessarily mean you have bowel cancer, but you’ll be offered a colonoscopy to check. A colonoscopy is where a thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted into your bottom to look for signs of bowel cancer. If your test comes back abnormal, you’ll be invited for a pre-assessment appointment to discuss the colonoscopy.

There’s also a screening programme called bowel scope, which is a one off flexible sigmoidoscopy (a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end) offered to people at 55, but can be accessed at any time until you turn 60. For this programme we are rolled out across Lambeth and most of Southwark.

During both these tests any polyps will be removed or biopsies may be taken of any abnormal areas.

How long does screening take?

The flexible sigmoidoscopy takes around 10-15 minutes and the colonoscopy takes 30-45 minutes, both depending on what we find.

When and how will someone be asked to go for screening?

All patients must be registered with their local GP in order to be invited to screening.

Bowel scope (flexible sigmoidoscopy) invites are sent automatically through the post for people aged 55 registered at a GP offering bowel scope screening (currently all GPs in Lambeth and 30 in Southwark). People up to the age of 59 can opt to have the test by calling the programme hub on 0300 303 4034.

Why is it important to go to screening?

It’s really important to have bowel cancer screening as it can save lives through early detection!

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • rectal bleeding or blood in your poo
  • diarrhoea, constipation, or change in bowel habits
  • unexplained weight or appetite loss
  • unusual fatigue
  • a pain or lump in the abdomen or back passage

If you have any of these symptoms, please be sure to go to your GP.

For more information about our services, visit the bowel screening page.


For further information please contact:
Molly Downing
Communications Officer
molly.downing@nhs.net
Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3257