Cancer screening

Cancer screening means testing for a specific type of cancer on healthy people who do not have any symptoms. Screening aims to catch cancer in the early stages when the chance of cure is the highest.

There are currently three cancer screening programmes in the UK:

Breast screening

Breast screening includes taking a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) that can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel. Mammograms are offered every three years to women who are aged between 50 and 71 and registered with a GP.

Eligible residents will automatically get their first invite for breast screening between the ages of 50 and 53. Then they will be invited every three years until they turn 71.

Screening results

You will usually get your results within 2 weeks of your breast screening appointment. They will be sent to you by letter. They will also be sent to the GP surgery you are registered with.

Rarely, you may need to have another mammogram to get a clearer picture of your breasts. Your results would be sent after this second breast screening appointment.

Screening for trans men

If you are a trans man, trans woman or are non-binary you may be invited automatically, or you may need to talk to your GP surgery or call the local breast screening service to ask for an appointment.

Further information

See a GP urgently if you have any symptom of breast cancer, even if you have recently had a clear breast screening. Please do not wait for your next breast screening appointment, contact your GP urgently.

The NHS provides more information about breast screening and has produced a patient information booklet, available in multiple languages.

Bowel cancer screening

NHS bowel cancer screening is available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years and this offer is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50 to 59 years. This is happening gradually over four years and started in April 2021.

Everyone within the eligible age who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit every two years. Make sure your GP practice has your correct address, so your kit is posted to the right place.

How the screening works

Once you receive the home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), you will need to follow instructions and collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This poo sample is checked for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel, they are not cancer but may turn into cancer over time.

If the test finds anything unusual, you might be asked to go to hospital to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.

Further informationĀ 

If you're worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have any symptoms, speak to a GP for advice. The NHS provides more information about bowel cancer screening.

Cervical screening

The 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 at an early stage.

All women and people aged 25 to 64 with a cervix should be invited by a letter. Women registered with a GP, and aged 25 to 49, will be invited for this test every three years. Those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years. The test can be done at GP practices, family planning clinics and sexual health clinics.

How the screening works

During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix. The sample is checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix. These are called 'high risk' types of HPV. If these types of HPV are not found, you do not need any further tests. If these types of HPV are found, the sample is then checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can then be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

Screening for trans men

Trans men who still have a cervix and are still registered as female with a GP will also be invited for cervical screening. Trans men who are registered as male will need to let a GP or practice nurse know so they can organise the test.

You can read more about trans men and cervical screening tests.

Further informationĀ 

The NHS provides more information on cervical screening.