Common questions about bowel cancer screening

At what age can I have bowel screening?

If you're worried about bowel cancer because of your family history you can talk it over with your GP. They can refer you for specialist advice and monitoring outside of the screening programme.

Do I have to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme?

You don't have to take part in the programme and can decline the invitation when you receive it. If you decide not to take part, you can either simply not complete the FOB kit, or contact the helpline number on the kit to explain that you don't wish to take part. This means you won't receive any reminder letters.

Will my diet affect the results of my samples?

It's been suggested that certain foods, such as red meat and some vegetables, can react with the FOB test and give a false result. However, there is no clear evidence that your diet will affect the result of your FOB test and you don't need to change your diet before collecting your samples.

What quality assurance is there?

All NHS screening programmes have strict quality assurance guidelines. All of the FOB test kits are bar coded with a unique number. Before the test kits are sent out, the bar codes are linked with a person whose records are held on the national call and recall system. This makes all FOB test kits clearly identifiable as belonging to a specific person.

Will my GP know I'm being tested?

Your GP is not directly involved in the bowel cancer screening programme, but they will be sent a copy of your results.

More commonly asked questions, and their answers, about bowel cancer screening are available on the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme website:

Back to Bowel screening

The bowel

The bowel is part of our digestive system and is made up of the small bowel and the large bowel.

What to do with your FOB test kit

This test checks bowel motions for tiny amount of ‘hidden blood’. It is not a test for cancer, but can indicate whether further tests are needed to examine the bowel.


A colonoscopy is a way of examining the lining of the bowel from the inside.

CT colonography

This test uses a CT scanner to create a picture of the bowel.