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Scottish Bowel Screening Programme


NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Scottish Bowel Screening Programme

Bowel Cancer in Scotland

Bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a major public health problem in Scotland, which has a higher rate of bowel cancer than most other countries in the Western world. In Scotland it is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women with approximately 4,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Ninety-five percent of cases occur in people aged over 50 years. Over the last 10 years, bowel cancer incidence (2003-2013) in Scotland has decreased in men and increased in women, while bowel cancer mortality (2004-2014) in Scotland has fallen in both sexes. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death for both men and women with around 1,600 people dying of the disease in Scotland each year. The five year relative survival rate is approximately 60% for both sexes.

Bowel cancer screening can identify pre-cancerous signs in men and women who otherwise have no symptoms, and thus abnormalities can be investigated and treated. Treatment at this stage is usually very effective.

Scottish Bowel Screening Programme

The Scottish Bowel Screening Programme commenced a phased roll out in June 2007 and by December 2009 all NHS Boards in Scotland were participating in the Programme. All men and women registered with a Community Health Index (CHI) number and aged 50-74 years are invited to participate and be screened every two years.

Eligible men and women are posted a guaiac-based faecal occult blood test kit (FOBT) which should be completed at home. This involves collecting 2 samples from each of 3 separate bowel movements. The kit is returned in a pre paid envelope to the central screening centre in Dundee and tested for hidden traces of blood in the stool. Individuals who have a positive FOBT result are referred to their local hospital for assessment and, where appropriate, offered a colonoscopy as the first line of investigation.

Detailed information about the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme can be found on the bowel screening pages on the NHS Inform website.

Up to 30 April 2015 in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme

  • Over 2.1 million people invited
  • More than 1.3 million took up the offer and achieved a final result
  • Over 4,100 cancers diagnosed through screening

Scottish Bowel Screening Programme Key Performance Indicators

These indicators were developed to monitor and evaluate the impact of screening programme. It must be noted that NHS Boards have been participating in the programme for different lengths of time, so some are in their prevalence round whilst others are in their incidence rounds. The KPIs are reported for a two year (screening) period and the latest report of the Key Performance Indicators for the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme can be viewed by following this link: KPI Report published February 2016 . Download Excel file


Older versions of the KPI Report are available by clicking on the icons below.

Please note: Users of assistive technology may experience difficulty accessing some of the content of these files. If so, please contact to request data in an accessible format.

Scottish Bowel Screening Pilot

The Scottish Bowel Screening Pilot commenced in April 2000 in Tayside, Grampian and Fife NHS Boards. All men and women registered with a GP Practice aged 50-69 years were invited to participate and to be screened every two years. The pilot programme finished in May 2007.

The pilot was split into three rounds, with each round encompassing a two yearly screening cycle. The screening algorithm (procedure) evolved over the three rounds. The initial algorithm is detailed in the full evaluation report Download PDF file. In the second round, dietary restriction for the repeat test was not required. In the third round, repeat testing of those who had a negative test following a weak positive initial test was not undertaken. Over 300,000 individuals were invited to each of the rounds of the Bowel Screening Pilot, with around 410,000 invited to all three rounds.

The Key Performance Indicators for all rounds of the pilot are available to view in SBoSPKeyPerformanceIndicators. Download PDF file

Information about bowel cancer

Detailed information on bowel cancer in Scotland and links to UK publications can be found on the colorectal cancer statistics page.

More general information on bowel cancer can be found at and

Bowel Screening Data Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions relating to the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme data are available here.Download PDF file [13KB].

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