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Private bowel cancer screening

Private screening for bowel cancer by experienced consultants

Woman sat on a bed holding her abdomen in pain ahead of her bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer screening is a type of screening designed to detect and diagnose bowel cancer (also referred to as colon cancer). Diagnosing bowel cancer in its early stages can help you get the right treatment for the disease and recover as soon as possible.

Bowel cancer is a general term to describe cancer that starts in your large bowel (also called your large intestine, which is the portion of your digestive system that absorbs water and salts that have not been absorbed as food). Bowel cancer can start in your small intestine, which helps digest food coming from your stomach, but more rarely. It is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, so it is important to have a bowel cancer screening to monitor and protect your bowel health.

In the UK, you will be offered bowel cancer screening every two years with the NHS if you are between the ages of 60 and 74. Some people who are considered at higher risk will have screenings when they are younger than 60.

However, some people who do not qualify for screenings on the NHS are still keen to have screening for bowel cancer. If you would like to access a bowel cancer screening quickly, with a consultant of your choice, we have a dedicated network of colorectal specialists who can perform bowel cancer screenings, with appointments usually within 48 hours. Call us or book online to get started. You can have a bowel cancer screening privately with us if you do not have symptoms and if you are under the age of 60.

At Circle Health Group, our colorectal specialists and consultant oncologists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating bowel cancer at various stages, helping you get the best treatment possible with the right team of healthcare professionals for you.

As mentioned above, screening for bowel cancer is highly important, even when you do not have symptoms. Getting screened regularly means you're more likely to be diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer before it has spread to other areas of your body.

Bowel cancer usually starts with small polyps (growths) that are non-cancerous. These growths can be detected during a bowel cancer screening. If you have polyps on your bowel or if your screening results are unclear, your consultant will usually arrange a colonoscopy to determine whether the polyps or cancerous or noncancerous.

A colonoscopy involves inserting a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) with a light and camera attached to the end of it through your bottom. The camera is connected to a monitor, allowing your consultant to look at the polyps on a screen. Your consultant can remove the polyp(s) with specialist instrument and have it sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope.

Some polyps take the form of a tiny raised area, while others are many tiny bumps clustered together. Although bowel polyps are not usually cancerous, they need to be removed regardless to prevent them from becoming cancerous in the future. Polyps are usually removed during a colonoscopy. Your consultant can insert specialist instruments through the colonoscope to remove the polyps, using the video monitor to guide the procedure.

Read more about having a colonoscopy with Circle Health Group.

Colon cancer vs rectal cancer

Bowel cancer can begin either in your colon or your rectum. Your colon and rectum make up your large intestine, but your colon is the largest part of your long intestine, while your rectum is the last several inches of your large intestine (closest to your anus). If you have bowel cancer, your consultant might refer to it as colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on your circumstances.

The cost of bowel cancer screening will depend on which hospital you choose as well as factors personal to you. If you would like a personalised quote, do give us a call on the number above.

If you are paying for your own screening, our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over one to five years with no deposit required. If you decide to pay over 10 months, you will pay interest-free. If you are paying for a longer period, you will pay 14.9% APR.

If you have private health insurance, bowel screening may be covered by your policy. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

You can usually see a colorectal specialist for your initial consultation within 48 hours of booking your appointment with us.

They will ask about your general health and your medical history. They will want to know about any existing medical conditions, as well as whether you are experiencing any symptoms of bowel cancer. They will share more information about the different screening options available and which one would be right for you.

This is a safe space for you to ask your consultant as many questions as you like about bowel cancer screening and bowel cancer. They are experts in their field, so you're in the right place to ask anything and everything that comes to mind. If it's right for you, they will arrange your bowel screening test as quickly as possible.

We share more information about the different bowel cancer screening options below.

Bowel cancer screening involves a variety of tests. Your consultant will determine which tests are best for you. These might include:

Stool testing (also known as the faecal immunochemical test)

One is a stool (poo) test and the other is a bowel scope test. You will be asked to collect a small sample of your poo, which your consultant will send to a laboratory to be inspected under a microscope. They will look for hidden blood in your stool, which is often dark brown coloured, maroon, or black.

A colonoscopy

As mentioned above, this involves inserting a thin, flexible tube into your bottom to examine inside your bowel and remove any polyps if needed. A colonoscopy can take up to 45 minutes, but it can take longer depending on whether your consultant is removing polyps during the test. You will not have local or general anaesthetic for the test, but you will be offered a sedative medication that helps you relax during it, as well as gas and air (this helps you to breathe properly and relax during the test).

A flexible sigmoidoscopy

This is a very similar test to a colonoscopy in that it uses a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end of it (a sigmoidoscope) to look inside your bowel for polyps. The main difference between this test and a colonoscopy is that it only looks at the lower part of your colon closer to your rectum, while a colonoscopy looks at your entire large intestine. If your consultant discovers polyps during the test, they will usually arrange for you to have a colonoscopy.

A sigmoidoscopy is not performed with local or general anaesthesia, but you will be offered a sedative medication and gas and air to relax and breathe properly during it. This test usually takes around fifteen minutes for your consultant to perform.

Your consultant might arrange for a combination of stool tests and a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to screen your bowels for bowel cancer.

There isn't a huge amount you can do to prepare for a stool sample bowel screening in the lead-up to the test. Your consultant will explain how best to catch your stool in the toilet and store it before your appointment. This will need to be done just before your appointment to ensure bacteria doesn't multiply in your stool, causing inaccurate results - this happens if you do not provide a fresh stool sample.

Preparing for a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy

The day before your colonoscopy you'll need to drink sachets of laxatives to empty your bowels in preparation for the test. Most people need to drink a few sachets, but your consultant will ensure you follow the right instructions for this. The same instructions apply for a sigmoidoscopy. You will need to stay at home to be near a toilet after drinking the laxatives.

You probably won't be able to eat or drink for a few hours before surgery, but your consultant will let you know whether this is the case.

You might want to organise a lift home from hospital following your test because you might feel tired and a little sore after it. We can arrange for a taxi to collect you if needed, though it's always nice to have someone with you when you get home.

You will be able to return home from hospital on the same day as your bowel cancer screening.

There is no recovery needed for a stool sample, but you might feel bloating or cramping for up to around three hours after a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. You might also have some blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom for a couple of days, which is completely normal and nothing to worry about. It might be a little bit sore the first time you go to the toilet, but this will ease quickly.

You might also feel tired after the test and need to rest for the remainder of the day, which is completely normal after any procedure. We recommend drinking plenty of fluids to replenish yourself after taking laxatives and to regain your strength. Aside from these symptoms, you should be able to return to normal, everyday life quickly after a bowel cancer screening.

It is important to remember that complications from bowel cancer screening are rare. Specific complications that can occur during screening include:

  • A polyp is missed during screening
  • Bleeding from where the polyps were removed
  • A tear in your bottom
  • An allergic reaction to the sedative

Serious complications are rare. If you have any concerns about these, speak with your consultant. They will be able to discuss their likelihood with you in more detail and put your worries at ease.

We answer your most commonly asked questions about bowel cancer screening.

What is the most accurate test for bowel cancer?

A colonoscopy is one of the most effective and commonly offered tests for bowel cancer screening, because it looks at your entire large intestine to identify polyps.

Does bowel cancer show in blood tests?

No blood test can diagnose bowel cancer, but your blood results can indicate clues about your overall health, such as your kidney and liver function, which can be affected if you have cancer.

How long can you have bowel cancer without knowing?

Bowel cancer can develop slowly over time and not show symptoms until its later stages, which is why it is important to have regular bowel cancer screening tests.

Can a doctor know if a polyp is cancerous during a colonoscopy?

No, they would need to remove the polyp to send it to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope by a specialist.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfy private rooms should you need to stay overnight 
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help spread the cost of your care

If you want to know more about bowel screening and find out if it's the right treatment for you, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly to learn more.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026.

  1. Bowel cancer screening, Cancer Research
  2. Screening to detect bowel cancer, National Cancer Institute
  3. Bowel cancer, NHS

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