Changes in your bowel can happen at any stage, so it’s important that you stay aware of your bowel health.

  1. When will I get the results?
  2. What is a colonoscopy?
  3. Preparation for a colonoscopy
  4. What happens during the colonoscopy?
  5. When will I get the results of the colonoscopy?
  6. Are there any risks with a colonoscopy?

When will I get the results?

Once you have sent back your test sample, you will get a letter with the results of your BowelScreen home test within four weeks.

What do the results mean?

There are two types of result:

  1. A normal result. This means that blood was not found in your test sample. It is still important that you know the symptoms of bowel cancer and what to look for. You will be re-called for another bowel screening test in two years.
  2. A not normal result. This means that blood was found in your test sample. It does not necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer but it does mean that you need to have another, more detailed, test called a colonoscopy.

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What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an examination of your bowel using a small camera on the end of a thin flexible tube. The test looks for any polyps or signs of disease in the lining of your bowel. Polyps are small growths that are not cancer but, if not removed, might turn into cancer over time. If polyps are found they are usually removed during the colonoscopy to reduce the risk of cancer developing. This is painless.

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What should I do to prepare for the colonoscopy?

Before a colonoscopy, a nurse will phone you and explain what will happen at the colonoscopy appointment. You should tell the nurse if you are taking any medications, in particular any blood thinning tablets such as aspirin or warfarin. The nurse will ask you about your health and you can ask any questions you may have about the colonoscopy.

The day before your colonoscopy you will have to empty your bowel completely so that the doctor doing the colonoscopy can see the lining of your bowel clearly. You will receive a bowel preparation medicine (a strong laxative) to take at home. It is very important that you follow the instructions that come with the medicine to fully empty your bowel.

The medicine will cause diarrhoea. After taking it, for your comfort you should stay close to a toilet. Do not travel or go to work.

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What happens during the colonoscopy?

When you arrive at the screening colonoscopy unit in the hospital, a nurse will meet you and answer any questions you may have. You will be asked to sign a consent form, giving your permission for the colonoscopy.

The colonoscopy itself is a day procedure which usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. You will be given a strong painkiller and a sedative to help you relax. This will make you drowsy and you may not remember anything about the colonoscopy afterwards. While you are sedated, your heart and breathing will be monitored.

Some people find having a colonoscopy uncomfortable but most people do not report that it is painful.You will be asked to lie on your side. A thin flexible tube called a colonoscope is passed into your back passage (rectum) and guided around your bowel. At the end of the tube there is a small camera with a light that shows the inside of your bowel on a TV screen.

If any polyps are found, they will be removed and tested.

Once you have recovered from the colonoscopy (after about 30 minutes), you will be able to sit up. You will need to arrange to have someone to drive you home from the screening colonoscopy unit as the sedative will leave you drowsy. You should not drink alcohol, use machinery or drive for 24 hours.

If you are not able to keep your colonoscopy appointment, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can offer the appointment to somebody else. We will arrange another appointment for you.

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When will I get the results of the colonoscopy?

If the colonoscopy shows that you need more tests or treatment the hospital will discuss and explain this to you and together decide the best course of action. The hospital will contact you and your GP with your results within two weeks.


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Are there any risks with a colonoscopy?

For most people, having a colonoscopy is very straightforward. There can be complications but serious problems are rare as you are carefully monitored during the procedure. The main risks of a colonoscopy are outlined below.

  • A colonoscopy is the best way to diagnose bowel cancer and other conditions, however, there is a small chance that a cancer or polyp will not be seen. This can happen because the bowel is not completely empty or, on rare occasions, if the doctor misses it. There is also a small chance that the colonoscope will not go along the entire length of the bowel because of a blockage or other difficulty.
  • Bleeding: Usually this is not serious and stops on its own. However in less than one in 150 cases this may need further investigation.
  • A small tear in the lining of your bowel: If this happens, you may need an operation to repair the tear. This happens in less than one in 500 cases.
  • Breathing or heart problems: You may have a reaction to the sedative and this may cause temporary problems.
  • In extremely rare cases (less than one in 11,000) colonoscopy may result in death.

If you have any concerns about attending for your colonoscopy, you should discuss these with the nurse who calls you or contact
BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 55.

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Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é BowelScreen BowelScreen is part of the National Screening Service
Teach Óstaí an Rí, 200 Sráid Parnell, Baile Átha Cliath 1, Éire King’s Inns House, 200 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55 Freephone 1800 45 45 55

Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive in Ireland. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.