How do I get tested for bowel cancer?

If you are experiencing any bowel-related symptoms, book an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can be very similar to other bowel-related conditions, however, it’s important to diagnose what is causing these symptoms. If it is cancer an early diagnosis can make all the difference to successful treatment.

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and check whether you have a family history of bowel cancer. They will assess your symptoms and carry out some initial examinations, they may also refer you for an initial blood test.

After these initial examinations if your symptoms could be bowel cancer then your GP will refer you to a consultant or hospital for further investigations. Most people referred for further tests will not have cancer, but an early diagnosis can lead to more successful treatment outcomes if it is cancer, so don’t delay in seeking medical advice.

Tests to help diagnose bowel cancer

What is an endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a type of test using a small camera that is attached to a thin tube to look inside your body. There are different types of endoscopy, but bowel symptoms are usually investigated using a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, so that a specialist can look inside your bowel.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

Dr Philip Woodland

Consultant Gastroenterologist at London Digestive Health

Colonoscopy is one of the most common examinations used to investigate bowel related symptoms. Dr Philip Woodland Consultant Gastroenterologist at London Digestive Health explains what to expect if you are referred for a colonoscopy.

What is a virtual colonoscopy?

At HCA Healthcare UK, we are able to offer virtual colonoscopy (also known as CT colonography) for patients who are unable to have a regular colonoscopy.

A CT scanner is used to produce images of the large bowel and rectum. This type of colonoscopy can identify growths such as polyps or changes to the shape of the bowel.

However, it doesn’t provide the same level of detail as a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, and samples or polyp removal cannot take place at the same time, so further tests or treatment may be required.

What is a video capsule endoscopy?

Video capsule endoscopy is an innovative way of looking at the inside of your bowel, by swallowing a small disposable camera the size of a large pill.


Dr Adam Humphries, Consultant Gastroenterologist at London Digestive Health explains more about how this test works.

What happens next?

After your initial diagnostic tests, your consultant will explain your results at a follow-up consultation. If you are diagnosed with bowel cancer, further tests may be required to determine the size and stage of the cancer. This may include scans or ultrasounds. 

Your consultant will discuss any further diagnostics with you in more detail and arrange a time for these to take place. Sometimes these can even be arranged on the same day. Our team of Clinical Nurse Specialists will be available to support you.
GP with patient

Looking for a second opinion?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, whether or not you have started treatment, a second opinion can give you reassurance and peace of mind.  

Our second opinion service is led by expert consultants. They will provide a comprehensive review of your current and past medical history, to identify the best treatment options for you. This review may identify new treatment options or simply confirm that you are already receiving the best treatment. Either way, it can help you make an informed decision about what is best for you.

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