Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is a term used to describe cancer in the colon, rectum or the small bowel.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your stools
  • A change in normal bowel habits to diarrhoea or looser stools, lasting longer than 4 to 6 weeks
  • A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or abdomen (more commonly on the right side)
  • A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you needed to pass a bowel motion)
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • A lower than normal level of red blood cells (anaemia)

Because bowel tumours can bleed, cancer of the bowel often causes a shortage of red blood cells. This is called anaemia and may cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.

Bowel cancer screening

How do I get a screening kit?

If you are aged 60-69 years, you will be sent your screening invitation automatically through the post. All you need to do is make sure that your GP has your correct address.

‘People aged 70 years and over or under the age of 60, who wish to be screened, should request a kit. Simply telephone the free helpline on 0800 707 60 60.’

What plans are in place to extend the age cohort for the NHSEI bowel cancer screening
We will be lowering the age range of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme to include 50
to 59 year olds as stated in the NHS Long Term Plan. To do this safely, the age extension will
be gradually rolled out across the country in a phased approach over the next four years,
starting with expanding the programme to include 56 year olds in 2021. Please read the Fit test info below for more information.

How to use the kit instruction leaflet

How to do the bowel cancer screening test video

Patient Bowel Screening Letter

Fit test info

Macmillan cancer support

Have questions about cancer? Visit or call 0808 808 000 free (Monday to Friday 9am – 8pm).