There are several screening programmes currently running in the NHS, whose aim is to identify health problems early and improve access to treatment and outcomes.
A timeline diagram summarising when these tests are usually offered to patients can be found by clicking here
The following information is more detailed and also has links to the relevant NHS screening website resources.
Cervical screening is not
a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb).
A sample of cells is taken from the cervix for analysis. A doctor or nurse inserts an instrument (a speculum) to open the woman's vagina and uses a small soft brush to sweep around the cervix. Most women consider the procedure to be only mildly uncomfortable.
All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years.
For more information on cervical screening, click here
Breast screening is a method of detecting breast cancer at a very early stage. The first step involves an x-ray of each breast - a mammogram - which is taken while carefully compressing the breast. Most women find it a bit uncomfortable and a few find it painful. The mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers which are too small to be felt either by the woman herself or by a doctor.
Breast Screening Programme provides free breast screening every three years for all women aged 50 and over. Because the programme is a rolling one which invites women from GP
practices in turn, not every woman receives an invitation as soon as she is 50. But she will receive her first invitation before her 53rd birthday. Once women reach the upper age limit for routine invitations for breast screening, they are encouraged to make their own appointment.
For more information on breast screening, click here
Bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage (in people with no symptoms), when treatment is more likely to be effective. Bowel cancer screening can also detect polyps. These are not cancers, but may develop into cancers over time. They can easily be removed, reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing.
After receiving an initial invitation letter and information leaflet, a faecal occult blood (FOB) test kit is sent out along with step-by-step instructions for completing the test at home and sending the samples to the hub laboratory.
The test is then processed and the results sent within two weeks.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 69. People over 70 can request a screening kit by calling the freephone helpline 0800 707 6060
For more information on bowel screening, click here.
Prostate cancer risk management
There is no organised screening programme for prostate cancer but an informed choice programme, Prostate Cancer Risk Management, has been introduced. If you are worried about a specific problem, or otherwise worried about the risks of cancer, then you should talk to your GP
For more information on prostate cancer risk, click here
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
The NHS offers screening in order to find aneurysms early so they can be checked regularly or treated if needed. The easiest way to find out if you have an aneurysm (AAA) is to have a simple, pain-free ultrasound scan of your abdomen, that usually takes less than 10 minutes.
If you are a man aged over 65 you are more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. That is why the NHS AAA Screening Programme invites men for screening during the year (1 April to 31 March) that they turn 65.
Men over 65 who have not previously been screened or diagnosed with an aneurysm can request a scan by contacting their local programme directly.
For more information on AAA screening, click here.