Bowel Screening

Talking to specialist practitioners about results

A person who gets an abnormal Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test result is offered an appointment with a specialist screening practitioner, usually a nurse. On the screening programme the nurses and doctors work together as a team. The nurse will explain the results of the FOB test, ask questions about the person's medical history, and offer further investigations, such as a colonoscopy. There is a useful booklet for people called 'The colonoscopy investigation'.

Some of the people we talked to explained what happened when they saw a nurse at the local hospital to discuss their results. The nurse explained that an abnormal FOB test result might be due to a benign (non-cancerous) polyp or other things. One man had been very glad that the nurse explained that an abnormal test result did not necessarily mean he had cancer.

Another man said that the nurse made him feel 'at ease', 'like one of the family'. She described the function of the bowel and explained that polyps could be removed. 

Many people said that the nurse spent between 30 minutes and an hour explaining what might happen during a colonoscopy. This man felt a bit alarmed when he was offered a colonoscopy the following week but then decided he wanted it done as soon as possible.

A woman had felt much calmer after meeting the nurse at the hospital. The nurse spent over an hour answering her questions about a colonoscopy, and explained that she would be able to have a sedative so that she would not remember much about the procedure.

Most people were glad that the nurse went through all the advantages and disadvantages of having a colonoscopy. Some thought that the advantages were emphasised rather than the disadvantages, but they recalled that the risks were mentioned too. Indeed, one man said that he felt he was told too much about risks.

Some of those offered a colonoscopy in the last round of the pilot programme decided not to have the procedure. The people we talked to said that they were given time to think about whether or not to have one. For example, a woman was told that she could go home and think about it and then ring the nurse when she had made up her mind. However, she made up her mind on the spot and decided to go ahead with it.

Many people recalled that the nurse gave them a phone number that they could call at any time if they had further questions. Several were impressed by the information they received, although one woman said that the nurse put the 'fear of God' into her with the detail about what could happen.

A man told us that he found it comforting to get all the verbal and written information. He said that after the appointment with the specialist nurse he felt more in control. He was glad to hear that the same nurse would meet him at the hospital and stay with him during the colonoscopy, thus providing continuity of care.

Some people had other medical problems which had to be taken into account. For example, one woman had only one kidney and had diabetes, so she needed special blood tests before the colonoscopy. She said that the nurse went through all the advantages and disadvantages of having a colonoscopy and explained that if the bowel were perforated during the procedure (a rare event) a small operation would be needed.

Last reviewed May 2016.

Last updated May 2016.

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