FOB test results
You should get the results of your FOB test in writing within two weeks of the test being received for analysis at the laboratory.
Your GP will also get a letter with your results. Waiting for your results may be an anxious time for you, and it may help to talk things over with a relative or close friend, or a support organisation.
The three possible FOB test results are:
About 98 out of 100 people (98%) will have a normal result. A small number of people will have repeated the test due to an unclear result the first time. If your result is normal, you’ll be invited to do an FOB test again in two years’ time, as long as you’re still within the invitation age range. If you’re older than this, you can continue to be screened every two years by requesting a screening kit.
The letter will include information about the symptoms of bowel cancer, so that you know what to look out for. If you’re worried about any symptoms that develop between your two-yearly screening tests, you should make an appointment with your GP.
Around 2 in 100 people (2%) will have an abnormal result. Sometimes, someone with an abnormal result will have repeated the test because of a previous unclear result. If your result is abnormal, you’ll be sent a letter and an appointment to see a specialist practitioner at your local hospital or screening centre. Your appointment should be arranged within a week of receiving your letter. Your GP will also be told your results.
Having an abnormal result is not a diagnosis of cancer. The abnormal result may be caused by conditions other than cancer, such as piles (haemorrhoids), a bleeding polyp or inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. You'll usually be advised to have an examination of your bowel (a colonoscopy), so that a diagnosis can be made.
Around 4 in 100 people (4%) may initially receive an unclear result. This means that there was a hint of blood in the sample, but not enough to give an abnormal result. An unclear result can be caused by conditions such as piles (haemorrhoids).
Having an unclear result doesn’t mean you have bowel cancer, it just means that the FOB test needs to be repeated. Most people who repeat the FOB test go on to receive a normal result.
If you have an unclear result, you’ll be sent a new FOB test kit. You should follow the instructions and return the samples as before. If the results of further tests are still unclear, or abnormal, you’ll be given an appointment to see a specialist practitioner to discuss having a colonoscopy. If the result of your repeat test is normal, you may be sent another kit just to confirm the result.
Other reasons you may be asked to repeat the FOB test are:
Sometimes there is a technical problem when your samples are tested in the laboratory. If this happens you will be sent a letter and another test kit to collect more samples.
Sometimes the FOB kit can’t be tested in the laboratory because it hasn’t been used properly or has been damaged. If this happens you will be sent a letter and a replacement kit.