Screening is a way of identifying apparently healthy people who may have an increased risk of a particular condition. The NHS offers a range of screening tests to different sections of the population.
The benefits are:
- Screening can detect a problem early, before you have any symptoms
- Finding out about a problem early can mean that treatment is more effective
- Finding out you have a health problem or an increased risk of a health problem can help people make better informed decisions about their health
- Screening can reduce the risk of developing a condition or its complications
- Some deaths from bowel cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer can be prevented.
Breast screening is offered to women aged 50 to 70 to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women over 70 can self-refer.
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.
As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every three years.
In the meantime, if you're worried about breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump or an area of thickened tissue in a breast, or you notice that your breasts look or feel different from what's normal for you, do not wait to be offered screening. See a GP.
You will receive a bowel cancer screening kit if you're aged between 60 and 74 years. Some people aged 56 are also being invited. This is because NHS England is slowly expanding this programme over the coming years. Eventually, people aged between 50 to 74 will be invited.
All men and women aged 60 to 74 who are registered with a GP in England are automatically sent a bowel cancer screening kit every two years. Make sure your GP has your correct address so your kit is posted to the right place.
If you're 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every two years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
NHS screening kits are not available for people under 60.
- More information is available on the NHS website here
- Using your bowel cancer screening FIT test video - this is also available with subtitles and in alternative languages
- Bowel cancer screening - an easy guide leaflet.
Watch the Cancer Research UK video How to do the bowel cancer screening test below:
Cervical screening is offered to women aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. It is offered every three years for those aged 26 to 49, and every five years from the ages of 50 to 64.
Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. 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.