Bowel Cancer Screening Centre

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cause of cancer death. Screening helps to detect bowel cancer, or early signs of it, at an early stage and can prevent unnecessary deaths.

All men and women aged 60-74 and those that are 56 and registered with a GP will be automatically offered a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) every two years.

We are currently in the process of extending the invitations to 56 year olds with 58 year old due to be invited from April 2022. The age will be lowered year on year until 50 year olds will start getting their invitations by 2024. Once completed, everybody between the ages of 50 - 74 will be sent a FIT kit every two years.

Although 98% of people who do this test will have a normal result, around 2% of people will have an abnormal/positive result. Those with a positive/abnormal result in the North East London area will receive a telephone appointment to speak to a specialist bowel screening nurse to discuss and arrange a colonoscopy (a test to examine the inside the bowels).

The symptoms of bowel cancer vary and not everybody will have symptoms. Research has shown that screening men and women for bowel cancer using FIT can reduce the mortality rate from bowel cancer by 16% in those invited for screening.

The aim is to find diseases (in this case bowel cancer) at an early stage when there is a better chance of a person being successfully treated.

The test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will indicate whether you need a further investigation, usually a colonoscopy. If you are eligible to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme, you will receive a screening pack in the post. Full instructions will come with the pack. More information is available on NHS bowel screening website.

About the test

FIT kit
The FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) is the updated home-testing kit for bowel cancer. 

How is it different?
It's much more sensitive than the previous testing kit it replaces, which means that it can detect smaller amounts of blood in the stool and will return fewer false positives. It also only needs one sample as well as having the ability to detect different amounts of blood in the stool.

How to perform the kit
The FIT kit is very straightforward to carry out, and can be broken down in to the following steps;

  1. Catch the bowel movement with a plastic container or bag.
  2. Twist the cap open on the bottle and scrape the stick along the bowel motion.
  3. Put the stick back in the bottle and 'click' it shut.
  4. Put the bottle back in the box, sign and send it off.

You can find visual instructions on how to use the kit here in different languages. There is also a video available to watch here in English or with translated subtitles or British Sign Language here.

Your results should be posted to you within 2 weeks of sending off your kit. If your results are negative then nothing else need happen, your GP will be informed, and you will be sent a new test kit in 2 years.

If you do develop symptoms such as bleeding when you poo, a change in bowel habit or an unexplained weight loss, then we recommend that you discuss these symptoms with your GP

​If it is positive then you will be invited to the hospital for a full bowel investigation, usually a colonoscopy. A positive result doesn't necessarily mean bowel cancer, but further investigation are needed to check.

What happens next?
Around 98% will receive a normal result and will be invited to participate again in a further 2 years’ time if still eligible. Around 2 in 100 people will receive an abnormal/ positive result. It means that we found an amount of blood in your sample above the screening range.

This does not mean that you have cancer, but it does mean we will offer you an appointment to discuss having a colonoscopy. Several things can cause blood in poo, such as:

  • haemorrhoids (piles)
  • bowel polyps
  • bowel cancer

Having further tests (usually a colonoscopy) means we can look for the cause of the blood. A free-phone helpline 0800 707 60 60 provides additional support to those taking up the offer of Bowel Cancer Screening.

About the screening centre

The NE London Screening Centre based at the Homerton Hospital coordinates the bowel screening services across the whole of North East London covering the populations of, City and Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest across three hospital sites, Homerton itself, Royal London and Whipps Cross Hospital.

The NEL Screening Centre plays an important role in:

  • organising and facilitating nurse clinics for people with abnormal test results 
  • carrying out further tests and investigations where people have had an abnormal test result
  • supporting patients during procedures/investigations 
  • scheduling and facilitating follow-up clinics to provide patients with histopathology results where relevant 
  • organising and facilitating multidisciplinary team meetings to discuss patient care and treatment options where appropriate 
  • reporting to patients’ GPs on progress and outcomes where appropriate.

About bowel cancer

What you need to know
Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. More than 41,000 people are diagnosed and nearly 16,000 die from bowel cancer each year.

The vast majority of bowel cancer cases occur in people aged over 60.

Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer refers to tumours in the part of your gut called the large intestine or large bowel. Tumours often start as small growths called polyps in the lining of the bowel.  For many people these polyps exist harmlessly in the bowel, but over time they can sometimes turn to cancer.


  • bleeding in the rectum or blood in faeces
  • a change in normal bowel habit, such as looser bowel movements or constipation
  • a lump in the stomach
  • a feeling of needing to strain the back passage even after opening the bowels
  • losing weight
  • pain in the abdomen or back passage
  • tiredness or breathlessness caused by anaemia

​If you present with these symptoms then speak to your GP immediately.

Getting screened during covid

We understand many people are anxious about attending the screening centre during the COVID pandemic.

We are committed to ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of our patients, communities, and staff. As cases are rising, we are maintaining all of the safety measure that we have had in place over the course of the pandemic therefore we require all staff, patients, and visitors to continue to wear face coverings and socially distance while inside any of the buildings.

If you complete a FIT kit and your result is positive you will then be invited for a telephone clinic assessment. Following your assessment, you will then be invited to the hospital for a full bowel investigation, usually a colonoscopy.
All patients from Homerton and Whipps Cross that require an investigation will be invited for a covid test prior to their investigation.  If you are a Royal London patient, you will first be offered a home test kit. You have the choice of a home test or a test at the hospital.

Once your covid results are confirmed your investigation appointment will go ahead or be rescheduled as necessary.