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Screening


Cervical screening - you will automatically be sent an invitation by the NHS screening department.

  • Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.
  • It's not a test for cancer, it's a test to help prevent cancer.
  • All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.
  • During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix.
  • The sample is tested for changes to the cells of your cervix.
  • Finding abnormal changes early means they can be monitored or treated so they do not get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
  • You'll get your results by letter, usually in about 2 weeks.

Bowel Screening - you will automatically be sent an invitation by the NHS screening department.

Bowel cancer is a common type of cancer in both men and women. About 1 in 20 people will get it during their lifetime.

Screening can help detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when it's easier to treat. It can also be used to help check for and remove small growths in the bowel called polyps, which can turn into cancer over time.

There are 2 types of test used in NHS bowel cancer screening:

  • bowel scope screening – a test where a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to look for and remove any polyps inside your bowel
  • home testing kit (the FOB test) – a kit you use to collect small samples of your poo and post them to a laboratory so they can be checked for tiny amounts of blood (which could be caused by cancer)

If these tests find anything unusual, you might be asked to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.

NHS bowel cancer screening is only offered to people aged 55 or over, as this is when you're more likely to get bowel cancer:

  • if you're 55, you'll automatically be invited for a one-off bowel scope screening test, if it's available in your area
  • if you're 60 to 74, you'll automatically be invited to do a home testing kit every 2 years
  • if you're 75 or over, you can ask for a home testing kit every 2 years by calling the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60

If you're too young for screening but are worried about a family history of bowel cancer, speak to your GP for advice.

Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age – don't wait to have a screening test.


Breast Screening - you will automatically be sent an invitation by the NHS screening department.

About 1 in 8 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. If it's detected early, treatment is more successful and there's a good chance of recovery.

Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they're too small to see or feel.

But there are some risks of breast cancer screening that you should be aware of.

As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday, and registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.

In the meantime, if you're worried about breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump or area of thickened tissue in a breast, or you notice that your breasts look or feel different from what's normal for you, don't wait to be offered screening – see your GP.


AAA Screening - you will automatically be sent an invitation by the NHS screening department.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is a way of checking if there's a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from your heart down through your tummy.

This bulge or swelling is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA. It can be serious if it's not spotted early on because it could get bigger and eventually burst (rupture).

In England, screening for AAA is offered to men during the year they turn 65.

Men aged 65 or over are most at risk of AAAs. Screening can help spot a swelling in the aorta early on when it can be treated.

Screening for AAA isn't routinely offered to:

  • women
  • men under 65
  • people who've already been treated for an AAA

This is because the risk of an AAA is much smaller in these groups.

You can ask for a scan to check for an AAA if you think you might need one but haven't been offered a screening test.



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