Checking for cancer (or for abnormal cells that may become cancer) in people who have no symptoms is called screening. Several screening tests have been shown to detect cancer early and to reduce the chance of dying from that cancer.
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. Cervical screenings are performed by your local GP, all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.
How often you receive a cervical screening depends on your age.
When you’ll be invited for cervical screening:
|Age||When you are invited|
|Under 25||up to 6 month before you turn 25|
|25-49||every 3 years|
|50-64||every 5 years|
|65+||only if 1 of your last 3 tests were abnormal|
A bowel cancer screening, checks to see if you could have bowel cancer. It’s currently available to everyone aged 60 or over.
You use a home test kit to collect a small sample of your stool and send it to a lab. The lab checks for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are small growths in the bowel. Polyps are not cancer, but may turn cancerous over time.
If your test finds anything unusual, further test may be undertaken to discover if the abnormality is cancer.
Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age – do not wait to have a screening test.
Contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening but have not been sent an invite.
Breast cancer screening
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 who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.