If you’ve recently done a bowel cancer screening test, you should receive your test results within two weeks. A copy will also be sent to the general practitioner (GP) that you nominated on your form.
On this page you’ll find information about what happens after you receive your bowel cancer screening test results, including what positive, negative and inconclusive test results mean.
What do the results mean?
Negative (no blood found)
A negative result shows that no blood was found in your poo samples.
No further action is required at this time unless advised by your GP.
However, a negative bowel screening test doesn't mean that you don't have, or can never develop, bowel cancer. This is because some bowel cancers may not bleed or may only bleed every now and then.
If you receive a negative bowel screening test result, it's recommended that you continue to have a bowel screening test every two years.
It's also recommended that you see your doctor if you notice any sign of blood in your poo or have any symptoms of bowel cancer, even if your last screening test was normal.
Positive (blood found)
A positive result means that traces of blood were detected in your poo sample.
It is important to speak to your doctor straight away if your sample is positive. Your doctor will talk with you about follow-up tests such as a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy will check for bowel cancer, polyps or other causes of bleeding. You can learn more about a colonoscopy below.
There could be several reasons for a positive screening result, that may not be related to bowel cancer, for example, bleeding from haemorrhoids or menstrual blood.
Remember, 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated if found at an early stage.
If you haven't received your results within 4 weeks, it may be because they were inconclusive.
This means the lab can’t analyse your sample. You will be sent another test kit within 4 to 10 weeks, so you can do the test again.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy examines the whole length of the large bowel. However, it is still possible that small polyps may be missed, especially if they are behind one of the many folds in the bowel or the bowel is not completely empty.
The doctor will insert a colonoscope (a flexible tube with a camera on the end) into your anus and up into your rectum and colon. Carbon dioxide or air will be passed into the colon to make it easier for the doctor to see the bowel.
If the doctor sees any abnormal or suspicious-looking areas, they will remove a tiny sample of the tissue for examination. This is known as a biopsy. During the colonoscopy, most polyps can be completely removed. A pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to check for signs of disease and may look for specific genetic changes.