Risks and benefits of Bowel Screening

Why taking time to consider the screening test is important

  • Bowel cancer is more common in people over 50 years of age, especially men. One in twenty people over 50 will get bowel cancer at some point in their lives.
  • Screening aims to find bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms.
  • The screening test looks for hidden blood in the bowel motion, as this may suggest a higher chance of bowel cancer.
  • Changes in the bowel can be found through screening. One example of this is non-cancerous growths called polyps.
  • It is important to remember that the screening test is looking for blood and some cancers or polyps do not bleed all of the time. This means that sometimes a cancer will be missed.

The screening test picks up two out of every three existing bowel cancers.
  • The screening test picks up two out of every three existing bowel cancers.
  • Changes can also happen in-between one screening test and the next, so it is important that you repeat the screening test every two years and never ignore symptoms.
  • If your test results are abnormal you will be offered a colonoscopy. There are some risks of complications when you have a colonoscopy, but such complications are rare. Most people who are offered a colonoscopy will not have cancer.
  • Most polyps can be removed and often prevent future cancers from developing.
  • For approximately every 650 people invited for regular screening, one bowel cancer death will be prevented.
  • In Scotland the screening programme will prevent at least 150 deaths from bowel cancer each year.

Bowel Cancer Awareness

The Scottish Government recently launched a Detect Cancer Early Bowel Screening campaign in order to improve cancer survival rates by increasing the number of Scots diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease.

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Last updated: 27 March 2013