A study looking at a way to support people as they decide whether or not to have bowel scope screening

Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer





This study looked at giving people extra support as they make a decision about whether or not to go for bowel scope screening.

It was open for people to join in 2015, and the research team published the results in 2019.

More about this trial

The aim of bowel cancer screening is to detect pre cancerous changes or bowel cancer at an early stage, before people develop symptoms. This means treatment is more likely to work. 

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers people in England who are 55 years old a one off bowel scope test (flexible sigmoidoscopy). Doctors use a camera on the end of a small tube to look at the lower part of the bowel and back passage (rectum). They look for any small growths or polyps which may develop into cancer if left untreated. Or areas of cancer that may have already developed.

When this study was done, the average number of people who went for a bowel screening appointment was low, at just over 4 out of 10 (43%). And lower than that in some areas of the country.

Researchers want to develop ways to give support and information to people who are invited for bowel scope screening. They hope this will help more people decide to have the test. 

In this study, the plan was for a bowel screening nurse (specialist screening practitioner) to contact some people who didn’t attend for their screening appointment.  

The main aim of the study was to find out if it would be possible to carry out this type of research with a larger number of people in the future. 

Summary of results

The research team found it was not feasible to run a larger trial where specialist nurses contact people who decide not to go for bowel scope screening.

The research team asked 1,050 people if they’d like to take part in this study. The information about the study was included with the initial information sent to people about the bowel scope screening programme. 

Of these, 152 people (14%) said they would like to take part. They were put into 1 of 2 groups at random. There were:

  • 109 people in the group scheduled to get a phone call from a specialist nurse
  • 43 people in group who got usual care (no follow up phone call from a nurse)

Of the 109 people in the group due to get a phone call from a nurse:

  • 87 people (80%) attended their screening appointment so didn’t need a follow up call
  • 22 people (20%) didn’t attend their appointment and were eligible for a follow up call 

The aim of the phone call from the nurse was to find out more about what stopped people going for bowel scope screening. And to offer them information as well as practical and emotional support.

The nurses found it difficult and time consuming to get in contact with people. They were only able to have a supportive conversation with 2 of the 22 people. 

The research team felt that the number of people sharing their contact details was too small. They didn’t feel that this was the right way to increase the number of people having bowel scope screening.

Many people still don’t know much about the bowel scope screening programme. The team felt there might be more effective ways to raise general awareness. Or that it may be better for GPs to contact people who didn’t want to have screening, to discuss it further. 

The research team concluded that it was not feasible to run a larger trial where specialist nurses contact people who hadn’t attended bowel scope screening. 

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed) Open a glossary item and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Christian von Wagner

Supported by

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
University College London (UCL)

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Alan took part in a clinical trial for bowel cancer patients

A picture of ALan

“I think it’s essential that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

Last reviewed:

Rate this page:

Currently rated: 2 out of 5 based on 5 votes
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think