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Screening for colon and rectal cancer

Screening means testing to find a cancer at an early stage, before there are any symptoms. The earlier that colon and rectal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. In the UK, a national screening programme to detect bowel cancer is being introduced across the country.

All men and women aged between 60 and 69 (50 and 74 in Scotland) will be offered a faecal occult blood (FOB) test every two years. Older people won‘t routinely be invited to take part, but are encouraged to request a FOB test every two years.

The test doesn‘t diagnose bowel cancer but can detect tiny amounts of blood, which you can‘t normally see, in your bowel motions (stools). Occult blood means =hidden blood‘. Bowel cancers and polyps can sometimes bleed, which is why screening looks for blood in your bowel motions. People who have a positive FOB test (have blood in their stools) are invited to have a colonoscopy to have a closer look at the bowel. Most blood in the bowel motions is caused by polyps and not cancer.

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