Bowel Cancer Screening
NHS bowel cancer screening checks if you could have bowel cancer. It’s available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years.
If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
The programme is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50 to 59 years. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021.
You use a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood.
Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer, but may turn into cancer over time.
If the test finds anything unusual, you might be asked to go to hospital to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.
If you have any questions about bowel cancer screening you can call the free helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age, even if you have recently completed a NHS bowel cancer screening test kit – do not wait to have a screening test.
Cervical screening is offered to all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. It is offered every 3 years for those aged 25 to 49, and every 5 years from the ages of 50 to 64.
You can book an appointment at your GP Practice as soon as you get a letter. If you missed your last cervical screening, you do not need to wait for a letter to book an appointment.
During cervical screening a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix for testing. The test itself should take less than 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.
It’s usually done by a female nurse or doctor. Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have.
Cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms or the symptoms may not be obvious. The most common symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, including after the menopause, after sex, or between regular periods
- changes to vaginal discharge
- pain or discomfort during sex
- unexplained pain in your lower back or between your hip bones (pelvis).
It is important to remember that these symptoms usually happen for reasons other than cervical cancer. But it is also important to contact your GP straight away, so they can give you reassurance and support. Do not wait for your screening appointment.
Breast screening is offered to women aged 50 to 70 to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women over 70 can self-refer.
During breast screening you’ll have 4 breast X-rays (mammograms), 2 for each breast.
Breast screening is usually done by 1 or 2 female mammographers. You can ask them about any questions or concerns you have.
The mammograms only take a few minutes. The whole appointment should take about 30 minutes.
How breast screening can help
Regular breast screening is one of the best ways to spot a cancer that is too small to feel or see.
Breast screening saves around 1,300 lives each year in the UK.
Finding cancer early can make it:
- more likely that treatment will be successful
- less likely you’ll need to have a breast removed (mastectomy)
- more likely you’ll be cured
You can have breast screening whatever size or shape your breasts are.
Breast screening is a choice
It’s your choice if you want to go for breast screening. Screening does not stop you getting breast cancer, but it is the best way to spot cancers at an early stage.
If you do not want to be invited for screening, contact a GP or your local breast screening service and ask to be taken off the breast screening list.
You can ask them to put you back on the list at any time if you change your mind.
See a GP if you have any symptom of breast cancer. Even if you have recently had a clear breast screening. Do not wait for your next breast screening appointment.
There’s currently no screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. This is because it has not been proved that the benefits would outweigh the risks. Instead of a national screening programme, there is an informed choice programme, called prostate cancer risk management, for healthy men aged 50 or over who ask their GP about PSA testing. It aims to give men good information on the pros and cons of a PSA test.