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Public Health Division
Room 3-EN
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Tel: +44 (0)8457 741 741 or +44 (0)131 556 8400

Fax: +44 (0)1397 795 001

E-mail: screening@gov.scot

Bowel Screening

Why screen for Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in Scotland in both men and women with approximately 4,000 new cases diagniosed each year. After lung cancer it is the second biggest cancer killer in Scotland with around 1,600 people dying of the disease in Scotland each year. 

Scottish Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot

The Scottish Bowel Screening Pilot commenced in April 2000 in Tayside, Grampian and Fife NHS Boards. All men and women registered with a GP Practice aged 50-69 years were invited to participate and to be screened every two years. The pilot programme finished in May 2007.

The pilot showed that for every 100,000 people invited for screening we could expect to detect around 100 cancers and 300 pre-cancerous lesions. Now the programme is fully implemented we aim to reduce mortality rates in the target population by at least 15 per cent, potentially preventing over 150 lives being lost to bowel cancer each year.

Scottish Bowel Cancer Screening Programme

A Scottish Bowel Cancer Screening Programme for all eligible men and women aged between 50 and 74 was rolled out across the country from June 2007.

The programme invites all eligible men and women aged 50–74 to carry out a simple test at home every two years. Men and women aged 75 or over can still take a bowel screening test every two years if they wish, this will not be sent automatically but can be requested from the Bowel Screening Centre Helpline on 0800 0121 833.

Kits are returned by post and screened at a central laboratory, call/recall and helpline facility based in Dundee. Results are sent out within two weeks.

A 'positive' result means blood has been found in the returned sample but it is still unlikely the individual has bowel cancer. The person is offered an appointment with a trained nurse who will explain what happens next, including details of any further investigations. All NHS Boards have been involved in the programme since December 2009.

Up to October 31, 2014 in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme:

  • Over 2 million people have been invited
  • Almost 1.3 million took up their invitation and achieved a final result
  • Over 3,800 cancers have been diagnosed through screening