Bowel Screening

Getting colonoscopy results

People usually get the preliminary results of their colonoscopy soon after the procedure, though they may not remember this clearly due to the sedative they received. Some people said that the specialist told them straight away that their bowel looked healthy. In other cases the doctor had explained immediately after the colonoscopy that further treatment might be needed. The type of treatment would depend on the biopsy results.

One woman described what happened when she woke up after the colonoscopy. The screening practitioner, who she thought was a nurse, explained that some small polyps had been removed but that she would need an operation to remove a larger one that was deep in the wall of the bowel.

Immediately after her colonoscopy another woman was told that she had a large polyp that looked 'suspicious' and that she needed an appointment to see a surgeon, who told her that the polyp looked cancerous and that surgery was needed.

Some people described more unusual situations. For example, a woman said that after the colonoscopy the nurse had explained that the specialist had not seen anything that might cause serious concern but that during the procedure he had noted that she had an enlarged valve where the small bowel meets the large bowel. He had taken a biopsy to make absolutely sure that there was no disease.

People were usually told that they would get the results of a biopsy within three weeks of the investigation. If there was nothing wrong some people received their results over the telephone and a letter to confirm the results.

However, most people received their results when they went to the hospital to keep an appointment with the specialist screening practitioner (usually the nurse who had been with them during the colonoscopy). The vast majority of people who attend screening receive good news at that time.

Sadly other people had learnt that there was something seriously wrong and that they needed further surgery.

People were sometimes understandably shocked by the news that they had bowel cancer, although some people said that they had started to suspect something was wrong before they were officially told the results. This man was told that the tip of one of the polyps that had been removed had been cancerous. Both he and his wife were worried and feared the worst.

Occasionally people received the result of their colonoscopy directly from a surgeon. For example, a man who initially had a normal Faecal Occult Blood test result, but who later noticed blood in his motions, and then had a colonoscopy, received a phone call from the consultant's secretary. He met the surgeon the following day and was told that he had cancer and that surgery was urgently needed.

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People who had been told that they had bowel cancer said that the specialist screening practitioners (usually a nurse) spent a lot of time with them explaining the results. Some greatly valued the continuity with the same practitioner at this stage. The nurses offered information and reassurance and explained what check-ups might be needed in future. They also emphasised the positive aspects of what had happened.

Occasionally people did not receive their results in the best possible manner. For example, one man received an appointment for a liver scan before he had been told the result of his colonoscopy. He did not know what was going on and felt the situation was 'going completely mad'. Later, when he went to the hospital the surgeon gave him the bad news he had cancer and showed him vivid pictures of the inside of his bowel. He had surgery 16 days later.

Another unfortunate situation occurred when a woman due to see the screening practitioners for the results, received a phone call from a hospital secretary the day before asking her to make an appointment with a surgeon. Realising that this could mean that something was seriously wrong, she panicked.

Last reviewed October 2012.

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