The three NHS cancer screening programmes available across England are recommended to assess whether you are at risk of developing certain types of cancer and to help catch and treat cancer sooner.
Cervical screening 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. Women registered with their GP are invited for cervical screening every three years aged 25-49 and every five years aged 50-64. Women over 65 are sent an invitation for screening if they have had a previous abnormal result. Early detection and treatment can prevent 75% of cancers developing.
Breast screening is a method of detecting breast cancer at a very early stage. The NHS Breast Screening Programme provides screening every three years for all women in the UK aged 50-70 (a phased extension should extend this to 47-73 by 2012). In 2000, research showed that the screening programme had lowered mortality rates from breast cancer in the 55-69 age group.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths, with over 16,000 people dying from it each year. Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective. 60-74 year olds registered with a GP will be sent a self-sampling kit through the post every two years. Regular screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%.
Women need to be aware of many health issues, but one of the most significant is breast cancer – the most common cancer in the UK.
Each year, about 46,000 women get breast cancer. Most of them are aged over 50, but younger women (and in rare cases men) can also get breast cancer. Its exact cause is not understood, but many factors increase the risk of developing it, including a family history of breast cancer.
If you have a higher than average risk, you may be offered screening and genetic testing (all women aged 50-70 are invited for regular screening). There is a good chance of recovery if detected in the early stages so it is vital that women check their breasts and armpits regularly – it maybe easiest to do this in the shower or bath for any changes and make sure to always get any changes examined by your GP.
The most commonly diagnosed male cancer in the UK is prostate cancer – each year, some 35,000 cases are diagnosed, and 10,000 men die from it. The prostate is a gland at the base of the bladder. Early stages may cause no symptoms, but symptoms include problems with your ‘water works’. Men most at risk are those aged over 45 with a blood relative who has had it, Afro-Caribbean men aged over 45; and all men aged over 50.
If you are concerned about your risk, talk to your GP. They may offer you a simple blood test called a PSA (prostate specific antigen) which might provide a marker for this disease. For information about the test, and treatment for prostate cancer, see the Prostate Cancer Risk Management information at www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk. Men aged 40-60 can have their overall health and fitness checked at well man clinics - ask about these at your GP surgery.