Bowel cancer screening test

Simplified process to increase screening uptake. 

Thousands more people across Scotland will benefit from the roll-out of a new and easier screening test to detect symptoms of bowel cancer.

The Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) requires participants to collect one bowel motion sample, rather than the current test which requires samples over three days.

Research suggests FIT’s ease of use will encourage more people to take part in the programme. The test is being offered to all men and women in Scotland aged 50 to 74, every two years.

Visiting the Scottish bowel screening lab in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Health Secretary Shona Robison said:

“Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives. More than 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully, if diagnosed early.

“This new test will help us to better treat bowel cancer, Scotland’s second largest cancer killer with 1600 deaths every year.

“The new test is easier to use than the previous process and this will increase the number of people completing screening. This will enable us to detect more conditions at an earlier stage, helping more people to beat bowel cancer than ever before.” 


In 2016 following a successful pilot involving 40,000 people, the UK National Screening Committee recommended that the test should be rolled out nationally. The research showed that FIT can increase uptake, especially in groups that have previously not taken part in the programme.

Bowel Cancer in Scotland

The new FIT test is easier to use. Only one stool sample is required instead of two samples from three separate stools with the current test. Bowel cancer screening can identify pre-cancerous signs in men and women who otherwise have no symptoms, and thus abnormalities can be investigated and treated.

Bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a major public health problem in Scotland, which has a higher rate of bowel cancer than most other countries in the Western world. In Scotland it is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women with approximately 3,700 new cases diagnosed in 2015. 95% of cases occur in people aged over 50 years. Over the last 10 years, bowel cancer incidence and mortality rates (2005-2015) in Scotland have decreased in both sexes.

Detailed information about the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme can be found on the bowel screening pages on the NHS Inform website.

Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland at Bowel Cancer UK, said:

“This is an important and crucial step forward in saving more lives from bowel cancer. We have long called for the introduction of FIT and have played an active role over many years campaigning for change.

“Screening remains one of the most effective ways of detecting bowel cancer in its earliest stages.”

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said:

“It’s great news that FIT bowel screening is being rolled out in Scotland. The kit is easier for people to use and research shows that it significantly increases participation in bowel screening in groups which tend to have lower uptake rates, for example men and those who live in poorer communities.

“Even though the move to using FIT will likely increase the number of people who complete and return their bowel screening kits, it’s still important for GPs to talk to their patients about the benefits and harms of screening.”


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