Your bowel screening test result

How you’ll receive your test result

You will receive a letter with your results and information about what this means for you. You may also receive a call from your doctor or a nurse.

When you’ll get your result

You will receive your test result within three weeks of returning your completed bowel screening kit.

If you don’t receive your result within three weeks, you should call the National Bowel Screening Programme on 0800 924 432.

What a negative test result means

A negative result means that no further investigation is needed until the next screening test.

Doctors recommend you repeat the screening test every two years, if you are still eligible, because bowel cancers do not bleed all the time and there is a risk that a cancer may be missed if it was not bleeding when the test was done.

Bowel cancer may also start to slowly develop between screening tests.

If you develop any symptoms of bowel cancer, it is important that you talk to your doctor.

What a positive test result means

A positive test result does not necessarily mean that bowel cancer is present.  

Small amounts of blood in a bowel motion are most commonly caused by polyps, or other minor conditions such as haemorrhoids (piles), which can easily be treated.

A positive test result means that further investigation is required. This will usually be a colonoscopy (an internal examination of the large bowel).

About colonoscopy

A colonoscopy involves a specially trained doctor or health professional putting a thin tube into your anus (bottom). There is a very small camera on the end of the tube which is used to examine the lining of your bowel, to see if there are any problems.

A colonoscopy can identify whether polyps or cancers are present.

If any polyps are found in the bowel, they will generally be removed and sent to the laboratory to check if any cancer cells are present.

Polyps are not cancers, but may develop into a cancer over a number of years. Removing polyps is usually painless.

About seven in 10 people who have a colonoscopy as part of the National Bowel Screening Programme will have polyps, which if removed may prevent cancer developing

About seven in 100 people who have a colonoscopy as part of the National Bowel Screening Programme will be found to have cancer and most will require treatment

Colonoscopy is considered a safe procedure with few risks. However, as with most medical procedures, there can sometimes be problems.

There is a very small risk that the colonoscopy procedure itself, or removal of polyps, will cause serious bleeding or damage to your bowel and you may need further treatment.

Page last updated: 05 May 2017
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