What Happens Next?

After you have completed the test you will receive the result.

  • Around 98 in 100 people will receive a normal result and will be returned to routine screening. They will be invited for bowel cancer screening every two years if still within the eligible age range.
  • Around 4 in 100 people may initially receive an unclear result which means that there was a slight suggestion of blood in the test sample. This could be caused by conditions other than cancer such as haemorrhoids (piles). An unclear result does not mean that cancer is present, but that the FOB test will need to be repeated. Most people who repeat the test will then go on to receive a normal result.
  • Around 2 in 100 people will receive an abnormal result. They will be referred for further investigation and usually offered a colonoscopy. An abnormal FOB test result can occur for a variety of reasons including piles (haemorrhoids) or stomach ulcers.

People who receive an abnormal result will be offered an appointment with a specialist nurse, and the next step is usually a colonoscopy procedure. The nurse will explain what a colonoscopy involves, assess the patient’s fitness for the procedure, and answer any questions.



A colonoscopy is an investigation that involves looking directly at the lining of the large bowel. A sedative is given and then a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera attached (a colonoscope) is passed into the back passage and guided around the bowel.

If polyps are found, most can be removed painlessly, using a wire loop passed down the colonoscope tube. These tissue samples are then checked for any abnormal cells that might be cancerous.

  • About five in 10 people who have a colonoscopy will have a normal result.
  • About four in 10 will be found to have a polyp, which if removed may prevent cancer developing.
  • About one in 10 people will be found to have cancer when they have a colonoscopy. In the unlikely event of diagnosis, information and support is available at the hospital’s Big C Centre and online at Beating Bowel Cancer.


What are the risks of a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the most effective way to diagnose bowel cancer and for most people it is a straightforward procedure. However, as with most medical procedures, there is the possibility of complications.

You can find out more about colonoscopies and associated risks in the ‘Bowel Cancer Screening – Colonoscopy Leaflet’.