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Published: 06 February 2024

8 in 10 people know the importance of regular bowel screening, new research shows

By Dr Róisín McCarthy, Research Officer, National Screening Service

A new online survey carried out by the National Screening Service shows increasing levels of knowledge about bowel screening. 400 men and women aged 60 to 69 took part in the survey aimed at understanding knowledge and awareness of bowel screening and bowel cancer.

Knowledge about bowel screening

Almost half (49%) of survey respondents had good levels of knowledge around bowel screening, a significant increase on similar research in 2021 (28%). Over 8 in 10 (86%) believed it to be extremely important or very important to do regular bowel screening. 6 in 10 (60%) take a bowel screening test when invited to do so by BowelScreen.


Almost 6 in 10 (59%) survey respondents said peace of mind about health is a motivator to do a bowel screening test. Over half (52%) said receiving an invitation to take part was a motivator.


Survey participants were asked what they thought the main barriers or challenges might be to people availing of bowel screening. Over 4 in 10 people (46%) said a fear of finding something wrong could be a barrier. Just over a quarter (26%) of respondents said a lack of knowledge on how to access screening could be a barrier.

Bowel cancer knowledge

Overall, there were increasing levels of knowledge about bowel cancer compared to a previous survey in 2021. Over 7 in 10 (76%) people said they have some knowledge of bowel cancer. Almost a third of respondents (29%) said they know a lot or have quite good knowledge about bowel cancer.


Over half (59%) of survey respondents feel confident in their ability to spot the symptoms of bowel cancer, an increase on similar 2021 research (40%).


Overall, levels of knowledge about bowel screening and bowel cancer are increasing. Empowering people to be more confident in their ability to spot the symptoms of bowel cancer is important. Receiving an invitation from BowelScreen is motivating people to take part in bowel screening.

  • The research was carried out in June 2023 by Empathy Research, on behalf of the National Screening Service.
  • At the time of the research, the age range for BowelScreen was 60 to 69 years. In October 2023 we lowered the age range to include everyone age 59.
  • BowelScreen is for men and women aged 59 to 69 who have no symptoms of bowel cancer.
  • Register for BowelScreen online, by freephone 1800 45 45 55 or email
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