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Bowel Screening Information Leaflet

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Wales.

Published: July 2020


― Do you know the benefits of the bowel screening test kit?
What does the screening test look for?
― What happens next?
― What is a colonoscopy?
― What can I do to reduce my risk of bowel cancer?
― What symptoms should I look out for?
― Will you be helping someone to use the test?
― How we use your details and information?
― More information




  • Over 2,200 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed every year in Wales.
  • Bowel screening can save your life. It reduces your risk of dying from bowel cancer.
  • Over 160,000 people in Wales do their bowel screening test every year.

Your bowel screening test can find bowel cancer early when it can often be cured.

You're nine times more likely to survive bowel cancer if it's found early.

Just over 900 people die from bowel cancer in Wales each year.

Do you know the benefits of the bowel screening test kit?

  • More than nine out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if it is caught early enough.
  • The test kit can help find bowel cancer early, even if you are healthy and don’t have any symptoms.
  • You do the test in the privacy of your own home.
  • The bowel screening test kit is quick and easy to use, with just one small poo sample needed.

Anyone can get bowel cancer. Take your screening test now.
  • You may feel well even if you have early bowel cancer.
  • Bowel cancer is more common as you get older.
  • Finding cancer early gives you the best chance of survival.
  • Bowel screening can save your life.


What does the screening test kit look for?

  • The screening test kit looks for hidden blood in your poo.
  • Blood in your poo can be a sign of bowel cancer or of other changes such as polyps (small growths).
  • Most polyps are harmless but some can lead to bowel cancer. Most polyps can be easily removed. • Sometimes the blood can be there because a polyp has bled.
  • There may also be other reasons for the blood, such as haemorrhoids (piles) or small tears in the bowel.
  • The test kit does not tell you if you have bowel cancer. The results will tell you if you need further tests such as a colonoscopy (where a tube with a small light and a camera at one end is put into your bottom, to look at the lining of your large bowel).

If bowel cancer is found early, it is more likely that the disease will be treated successfully.

What happens next?

  • We will post your results within two weeks.
  • Most people will have a normal result and will not need further tests.
  • If we find blood in your sample, we will refer you for an assessment with a Screening Nurse.
  • We will offer you further tests which may include a colonoscopy.
What you need to know
  • Men and women in the eligible age range are invited to take part in screening every two years.
  • Taking part in bowel screening is your choice.
  • Bowel screening is not 100% accurate.
  • Screening will miss some cancers and some cancers cannot be cured.

What is a colonoscopy?

  • A colonoscopy is a way of looking at the lining of your large bowel (colon) to see whether there is any disease present.
  • During the colonoscopy we may take some small samples from the lining of your bowel (biopsies) to check in the laboratory if necessary.
  • The pictures are shown on a screen so we can check whether or not you have any bowel disease or inflammation.
  • There are risks associated with having a colonoscopy, such as perforation (a tear in the lining of the bowel), which happens in one in 1000 procedures, or significant bleeding, which happens one in 100 to 200 procedures.

More than 9 out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it is caught early enough.

What can I do to reduce my risk of bowel cancer?

  • Take part in the bowel screening programme every two years.
Move more
  • Being active helps you feel better and can reduce your risk of developing a serious illness.
  • Aim to be active for at least 2½ hours a week.
Drink less alcohol
  • Drinking alcohol can also increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and liver damage.
  • If you want to keep the risks low, drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
  • If you want to cut down, have several alcohol-free days a week.
Eat well
  • Eating fruit and vegetables may help reduce your risk of developing serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
  • Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Don’t smoke
  • Stopping smoking will improve your health.
  • Visit if you are thinking about quitting.


What symptoms should I look out for?

  • Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your poo.
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Will you be helping someone to use the test?

If you are a carer you should only help someone else to use the bowel screening test kit if they want you to and have agreed you can do this.

You can find more information for carers on our website 

How we use your details and information?

Your details and information are kept confidential.

Occasionally, we are asked to provide information for research trials or audits. Each request for information is reviewed by the Director of the Screening Division and has to be approved both by the Director and the Caldicott Guardian (the person responsible for confidentiality and the use of personal information within Public Health Wales).

Most requests ask for anonymised information only (information that has had people’s personal information removed), so you cannot be identified. We would only provide information that identified you after contacting you for your permission or if there is a lawful reason to do so.

We may also invite you to take part in research linked to the screening programme. If you decided not to take part, this would not affect the service you receive from the Screening Division in the future in any way.

We review the screening history of everyone diagnosed with bowel cancer (even very early cancer) who we have invited to take part in the bowel screening programme. You can see the results if you would like to.


More information

If you have any questions about bowel screening, or would like information in:

Visit the links above or call the Freephone helpline on 0800 294 3370.