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.
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: Speak to your GP if
you're outside the current age range for bowel screening and you:
- are worried about symptoms of bowel cancer
- have a family history of bowel cancer
- have symptoms of bowel cancer between screening tests
- are having treatment for a bowel condition - your GP will let you know if you should take part in 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.
Contact us if you need to:
- check if you're on the register
- change your details
Limitations of bowel screening
The bowel screening test looks only for 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 so important to have the screening test every 2 years.
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.
Irish and English guides to bowel screening
You can download guides to bowel screening in Irish and English:
- About bowel screening (PDF, 489 KB, 6 pages)
- Irish: Maidir le scagthástáil phutóige (PDF, 664 KB, 2 pages)
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.
Find BowelScreen videos in other languages
Videos on BowelScreen are available in 25 languages:
- Irish - Gaeilge (video)
- Albanian - Shqip (video)
- Arabic - العربية (video)
- Bengali (video)
- Bulgarian - български (video)
- Croatian - Hrvatski (video)
- Dutch (video)
- Filipino (video)
- French - Français (video)
- Hindi - हिन्दी (video)
- Hungarian - Magyar (video)
- Italian - Italiano (video)
- Lithuanian - Lietuvių (video)
- Mandarin (video)
- Pashto - پښتو (video)
- Polish - Polski (video)
- Portuguese - Português (video)
- Romanian - Română (video)
- Russian - Русский (video)
- Slovak - Slovenský (video)
- Spanish - Español (video)
- Swahili - Kiswahili (video)
- Ukrainian - Українська (video)
- Urdu - اردو (video)
- Yoruba - Èdè Yorùbá (video)