Screening is a way of checking apparently healthy people using a test to identify those who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition, such as cancer. They can then be offered information, further tests and treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition.
Screening can be applied to the whole UK population or a special section of that population. The UK National Screening Committee uses rigorous scientific methods and evidence to decide which conditions will be addressed by a national screening programme.
If you're offered a screening test, it will give you an accurate indicator of your risk. This will help to catch and treat serious conditions sooner and save more lives. It also means that if you do have a condition, you'll be guided through the process of diagnosis and treatment.
Adult screening tests on the NHS
There are many national screening programmes available on the NHS. If you’re registered with a GP, you'll automatically receive invitations for relevant screening tests throughout your life.
You don’t have to take up these invitations,but think hard before you turn them down. All screening tests are scientifically proven to be effective and could mean that a serious condition is spotted early, when it may be easier to treat.
The range of NHS screening tests on offer for adults includes:
- Bowel cancer screening
This is available for all men and women aged 60 and over.
Bowel cancer can be present for a long time before any symptoms appear. If bowel cancer is detected before symptoms appear, it is easier to treat and there is a better chance of surviving the disease. The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England started in July 2006. Men and women aged 60-69 registered with a GP will automatically be sent an invitation for screening through the post.
The screening programme is being extended in England to those aged 70 to 75. Screening centres in England are rolling out the extension once their two-year screening invites have completed. People over 70 can also request a screening kit by calling the freephone helpline 0800 707 6060.
Screening consists of a home testing kit, called an FOBt (faecal occult blood test) kit. The kit arrives through the post when screening is due. The kit is used to collect tiny stool samples on a special card. The card is then sealed in a special hygienic freepost envelope and sent to a laboratory where it will be checked for traces of blood, which may indicate a problem.
-Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
This is available for men aged 65 and over.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms are often diagnosed during a routine physical examination when a GP notices the distinctive pulsating sensation in the abdomen.
A diagnosis can be confirmed using an ultrasound scan. Ultrasounds can also determine the size of the aneurysm, which is an important factor in deciding on a course of treatment. In 2009, the NHS launched a screening programme for aortic aneurysms. The programme is designed to offer all men who are 65 years old or over an ultrasound scan for aortic aneurysms.
All men should receive an invitation in the year that they turn 65 years old. Men who are older than 65 can refer themselves for screening by contacting the local NHS AAA screening service on 01788 663428.
- Diabetic retinopathy screening
This is for everyone with diabetes aged 12 and over.
It’s important to identify diabetic retinopathy as soon as possible and screening is an effective way of detecting retinopathy at an early stage, in order to reduce the risk of vision loss in people with diabetes.
If retinopathy is detected early enough, it can be effectively treated using laser treatment. Otherwise, by the time the symptoms of retinopathy become noticeable, it can be much more difficult to treat.
Everyone with diabetes who is 12 years of age or over should have their eyes screened once a year. You should receive a letter inviting you to attend a screening appointment. Contact your GP if you have not received a letter and your appointment is overdue.
Seek immediate medical advice if you have a problem with your vision in between screening appointments, such as sudden vision loss or deterioration in your vision. Do not wait until your next screening appointment.
- Cervical cancer screening
Cervical screening tests are available for all women aged 25 and over.
A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer. Cervical screening is not a test for cancer; it is a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
Most of these changes will not lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so that they cannot become cancerous.
About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, which amounts to 2% of all cancers diagnosed in women. It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.
- Breast cancer screening
This is available to all women aged 50 and over (the age range of women eligible for breast screening will extend from age 47 by 2016). The NHS Breast Screening Programme screens around 1.6 million women a year. Women aged 50 to 70, who are registered with a GP, are automatically invited for screening every three years. You will first be invited for screening between your 50th and 53rd birthday.
Women over the age of 70 are still eligible to be screened and can arrange this through the local screening unit on 02476 967200.The NHS has extended the breast screening age range in England so that all women aged 47 to 73 will be invited.
Screening takes place at a special clinic or mobile breast screening unit. A mammogram (X-ray of the breast) is taken by a female health professional. The mammogram is then studied to look for any abnormalities. The aim is to detect breast cancer at an early stage, when any changes in the breast would be too small to feel and when there is a good chance of successful treatment and full recovery.
Not all cancers are found during breast screening. Breast cancer can develop between screening appointments. Even if you go to breast screening, it is important to get to know your breasts so you can spot any unusual changes early on and report them to your GP.
Health checks on the NHS
- NHS Health Checks
The NHS Health Check is for adults in England between the ages of 40 and 74. Everyone is at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and some forms of dementia. The good news is that these conditions can often be prevented, even if you have a family history of them. NHS Health Check can help you by assessing your risk of developing these health problems and giving you personalised advice on how to reduce it.
You will be invited to attend the surgery for a NHS Health Check in the year that you turn 40. If you are between 40 and 74 and would like a NHS Health Check, please ring the surgery and request a NHS Health Check with one of the practice nurses.
- Health checks for people with a learning disability
Adults with a learning disability are offered a check-up of their physical health once a year at the practice. If you are eligible, you or your carer will be contacted by the practice directly.
- Physical health checks for people with long-term mental health issues
People with long-term mental health issues often have poorer physical health than most people. The practice therefore offers a physical health check. Please ring the surgery on 02476 322810 for an appointment with one of the practice nurses.
- Frail and Elderly Over 75 Health Checks
We now offer all our patients who are over 75 a health assessment to assess your needs and if you need any further support. Please make an appointment with our Health Care Assistant Abi for this check.