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Bowel screening - BowelScreen

Bowel screening aims to detect signs of bowel cancer at an early stage, where there are no symptoms. Bowel cancer is also known as colon, rectal or colorectal cancer.

Around 2,600 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Ireland every year. Bowel cancer is the second most common of all cancers in men and the third most common of all cancers in women in Ireland.

If bowel cancer is found early, it’s easier to treat and there’s a better chance of recovery.

Bowel cancer

Who can get bowel screening

You can get bowel cancer screening if you are age 59 to 69 and live in Ireland.

We will offer you your first home screening test between your 59th and 61st birthday.

Then you will be offered a home test every 2 years.

You need to be on the bowel screening register before you’re offered a home screening test


Bowel screening is changing. Over time we are extending the age group that can access screening.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

Do this even if you're outside the current age range for bowel screening.

If you are having treatment for a bowel condition, ask your GP if you should get bowel screening.

Doing the test at home

Screening involves taking a sample of your poo (stool sample) using a home test. We can post the test to you.

The test is a simple way for you to collect a small sample of your poo at home. This may sound embarrassing or unpleasant, but it only takes a few minutes.

You place the sample in a special tube and send it back in a sealed envelope for testing in a laboratory.

This test looks for blood in your poo. If the amount of blood found in your poo is above the screening limit, you will be referred for a further test called a colonoscopy.

Blood can be present for many non-serious reasons. But it could also be an early warning sign of bowel cancer.

This test is free.

To register for bowel cancer screening:

Contact us if you need to:

  • check if you're on the register
  • change your details

Contact BowelScreen

Limitations of bowel screening

The bowel screening test looks only for a level of blood in your stool. If the amount of blood is below the screening limit, it is not a guarantee that you do not have bowel cancer.

This is because not all cancers or polyps bleed all the time. No screening test is 100% reliable.

Changes can also happen between screening tests.

This is why it is important to have the screening test every 2 years. Do not wait for your next screening test if you have any symptoms of bowel cancer.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

After your screening

If you get an abnormal result from your sample, you’ll be offered a colonoscopy. This is a test where a thin, flexible tube with a small camera at the end is used to look for polyps inside your bowel.

Polyps are small growths. If they are not removed they might turn into cancer over time.

Reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer

It’s important to stay aware of your bowel health as changes can happen at any age. A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

Try to:

  • be more physically active
  • eat well - have a diet with plenty of dietary fibre such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, brown rice and cereals
  • reduce your intake of processed and red meat
  • keep a healthy weight
  • limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Irish and English guides to bowel screening

You can download guides to bowel screening in Irish and English:

BowelScreen screening information videos

Watch this video to find out what bowel screening is and how you can get screened in Ireland.

BowelScreen information in other languages

Our video about BowelScreen is available in 25 languages including Irish, Ukrainian and Russian.

Page last reviewed: 10 October 2022
Next review due: 10 October 2025