Benefits and disadvantages of bowel cancer screening

We’ve listed the main benefits and disadvantages of bowel cancer screening. You can use this to help decide if you want to be screened.


  • Bowel cancer screening can detect bowel cancer at its earliest stage, when there is a 90% (9 in 10) chance of curing it.
  • Bowel screening can prevent some bowel cancers from developing.
  • With regular screening, 16% fewer people die from bowel cancer.


  • Some bowel cancers are missed during screening. So you should always go to see your doctor if you have any bowel symptoms, even if you had a negative screening result.
  • Some people find bowel screening tests embarrassing.
  • Not all cancers found during bowel cancer screening can be cured.
  • Rarely, a bowel scope test or a colonoscopy can cause bleeding or a tear in the bowel.

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.

The FOB and FIT tests

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.

Bowel scope screening

This test looks at the lower part of your large bowel. It can help detect cancers at an early stage.


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