Everyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent a free NHS bowel cancer screening kit every two years. Londoners who were 56 after 31 March 2021 or 58 after 15 May 2022 are now also included. By April 2025, it will be for everyone aged 50 to 74.
The free NHS bowel cancer screening kit used in England is the faecal immunochemical test kit – FIT kit for short.
You collect a small sample of your poo on a small plastic stick, put it in the sample bottle and post it to a lab for testing. Packaging is supplied. No stamp is needed.
Instructions on using the kit come with it. Click here to see a video with the instructions and here to see them with translated subtitles and in British Sign Language.
The poo samples are checked in a lab for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer but may turn into cancer over time.
Your test result should be posted to you within two weeks of you sending off your kit.
There are two types of result:
- no further tests needed
- further tests needed.
This result means:
- no blood was found in your poo sample, or only a tiny amount
- you do not need to do anything at this time
- you’ll be invited to do another screening test in two years (if you’re still under 75 by then)
This is not a guarantee that you do not have bowel cancer. See a GP if you have or get symptoms of bowel cancer, even if you have already used a bowel screening kit.
This result means:
- blood was found in your poo sample
- you do not necessarily have bowel cancer (the blood could be the result of something like piles) but you’ll be offered an appointment to talk about having a colonoscopy to look for the cause.
The vast majority of further tests come back negative for bowel cancer.
About 98 out of 100 people who use their bowel screening kit do not need further tests. About two out of 100 are asked to go to hospital for further tests. Nine out of 100 people who have these further tests (nine out of 5000 people who use their bowel screening kit) turn out to have cancer.
In the UK, 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 16,500 people die from it each year – more than 45 a day
Screening can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage when it’s easier to treat and those who complete bowel screening are 25% less likely to die of bowel cancer.
No screening test is 100% reliable, so yes, there is a chance a cancer could be missed. Even if you have used your NHS bowel screening kit recently, stay alert for bowel cancer symptoms.
NHS bowel screening kits are sent to the home address of everyone the right age who is registered with a GP in London, soon after their 60th birthday and then every two years until they are 74. Londoners who were 56 after 31 March 2021 or 58 after 15 May 2022 are now also included. If you are the right age but didn’t receive one, please phone the free bowel screening helpline on 0800 707 6060. Please also make sure your GP practice has your correct address.
If you are 75 or over, you can ask for a free NHS bowel screening kit every two years by phoning the free bowel screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.
Phone the free bowel screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.
For further questions and answers, please click here.