Benefits and disadvantages of bowel cancer screening

We have listed the main benefits and disadvantages of bowel cancer screening tests. You can use this to help you decide if you want to take part in the FOB test, FIT test and bowel scope screening programmes.


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


  • Screening cannot detect all bowel cancers. You should always go to see your doctor if you have any bowel symptoms, even if you had a negative screening result.
  • 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. If this happens, an operation is needed to repair the bowel.

Back to Bowel screening

The FOB and FIT tests

These tests check for tiny amounts of blood in poo, which can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer.

Bowel scope screening

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


A colonoscopy is a test that looks at the inside of the large bowel.

Virtual colonoscopy

This test is also called a CT colonography. It uses a CT scanner to build a picture of the bowel.

Be bowel aware

It is good to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and ways to reduce your risk.