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Bowel screening

Published on 12 April 2022

Screening for bowel cancer helps detect abnormalities before symptoms appear. The test measures the amount of blood in a sample, which can indicate a higher risk of pre-cancerous growths – or bowel polyps – and any other changes in the bowel. Signs of bowel cancer can be small, making the screening programme important.

Where does the Bowel Screening Service take place?

We commission the Scottish Bowel Screening Centre from NHS Tayside. It consists of the call-recall office, a helpline for patients and a laboratory. Home tests get sent to the central laboratory for analysis.

Who gets the bowel cancer test and how does it work?

Men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 receive an invite to take the test in the post. After that, anyone over the age of 75 can call the helpline to self-refer. Home tests are sent to eligible participants every two years.

The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) can detect and measure the amount of blood in a stool sample. This indicates whether a result is normal or not.

If the test results are positive, patient referral via the Bowel Screening IT System (BoSS) takes place. Further investigations are then done by the relevant local colorectal cancer service.

Further information for participants:

Find further information on the NHS Inform website. This includes details around:

  • bowel cancer symptoms and signs
  • the benefits and risks of screening
  • taking the test

The bowel screening ‘This little test could help save your life’ booklet is also available from NHS Health Scotland. You can access this in an easy read version or in other languages.

Participants can request a new or replacement kit by:

Further information for health professionals:

Find the latest screening standards on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

For programme statistical information and trend data, visit the Information Services Division Scotland website.

Lead clinician

Professor Bob Steele


Scottish Bowel Screening Lab
Ninewells Hospital
James Arrott Drive

NSD contact

NSD Screening

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.