Screening is a way of finding out if people are at higher risk of a health problem, so that early treatment can be offered or information given to help them make informed decisions.
The NHS offers a range of screening tests to different sections of the population.
The aim is to offer screening to the people who are most likely to benefit from it. For example, some screening tests are only offered to newborn babies, while others such as breast screening and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening are only offered to older people.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
AAA stands for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen.
In some people, as they get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It can then start to expand and form what is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The condition is most common in men aged 65 and above. Men are six times more likely to have an aneurysm than women and your risk of having an aneurysm increases if you are or have been a smoker, you have high blood pressure or you have a close family member who has had one.
If you have an AAA you will not usually notice any signs or symptoms; this means cannot tell if you have one, will not feel any pain or notice anything different. Large aneurysms are rare but can be very serious. As the wall of the aorta stretches it becomes weak and can burst, causing internal bleeding. Over 80% people die when an aneurysm bursts.
An aorta that is only slightly larger than normal is not dangerous; however, it is still important to know about it so that we can check if the aneurysm is getting bigger.
AAA screening is a free NHS national programme that screens men aged 65 plus to check if they have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The screening is by invitation and uses an ultra sound scan. If you are a man aged over 65 you are more at risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm than any other demographic so this is why you will be invited for screening.
We offer screening so we can find aneurysms early and monitor or treat them. This greatly reduces the chances of the aneurysm causing serious problems.
Men over 65 who have not previously been screened or diagnosed with an aneurysm can request a scan by contacting their local programme directly on: 0191 445 2554
The Lancashire and South Cumbria Abdominal aortic Aneurysm screening Programme is hosted by The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, but you will be invited to a clinic local to where you live for your scan. Our centre covers all Lancashire and South Cumbria localities.
Click here for: leaflet with more information on the AAA screening process or here for accessible AAA screening process leaflets, or visit our website: http://www.qegateshead.nhs.uk/aaa
Bowel Cancer Screening
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.
Symptoms of bowel cancer
The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are:
- persistent blood in the stools – that occurs for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit.
- a persistent change in your bowel habit – which usually means going more often, with looser stools.
- persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss.
The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth waiting for a short time to see if they get better as the symptoms of bowel cancer are persistent.
Bowel cancer symptoms are also very common, and most people with them don’t have cancer.
- blood in the stools when associated with pain or soreness is more often caused by piles (haemorrhoids)
- a change in bowel habit or abdominal pain is usually the result of something you’ve eaten
- a change in bowel habit to going less often, with harder stools, is not usually caused by any serious condition – it may be worth trying laxatives before seeing your GP
These symptoms should be taken more seriously as you get older and when they persist despite simple treatments.
To detect cases of bowel cancer sooner, the NHS offers two types of bowel cancer screening to adults registered with a GP in England:
- All men and women aged 60 to 74 are invited to carry out a faecal occult blood (FOB) test. Every two years, they’re sent a home test kit, which is used to collect a stool sample. If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for this test by calling the freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
- An additional one-off test called bowel scope screening is gradually being introduced in England. This is offered to men and women at the age of 55. It involves a doctor or nurse using a thin, flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel.
Taking part in bowel cancer screening reduces your chances of dying from bowel cancer. Removing any polyps found in bowel scope screening can prevent cancer.
However, all screening involves a balance of potential harms, as well as benefits. It’s up to you to decide if you want to have it.
To help you decide, further information can be found below by watching the video or by clicking the links below to be re-directed to more information on bowel screening.
The North Lancashire and South Cumbria Breast Screening Service is part of the National Breast Screening Programme and provides a free breast screening service for eligible well women in North Lancashire and South Cumbria.
Our breast screening programme invites eligible women to locations across the Morecambe Bay, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre area.
All eligible women aged 50 – 70 are invited for breast screening every 3 years. Some older (71-73) and younger (47-49) women are also being invited as part of a National age extension trial.
The North Lancashire and South Cumbria Breast Screening Service invites around 125,000 women every three years for screening. Screening is organised according to your GP practice. Once every three years your GP practice will be contacted and all eligible women will be routinely invited.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer within their life time.
Contact details for Breast Screening Unit:
Telephone: 01524 518699
What is cervical screening?
Cervical screening is a way of preventing cancer. It aims to pick up cell changes that could develop into cancer if left untreated. Your cervix is the lowest part of your womb, and is at the top of your vagina.
A nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix using a small soft brush. They send this to the laboratory to check for the human papilloma virus (HPV) and any changes in the cervical cells. Some types of HPV can cause cervical cells to become abnormal. Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to these types of HPV.
In Wales and most of England, they now test for HPV first. This is called primary HPV testing. If they find HPV, they then check for cell changes in the sample. This is still being rolled out across England.
Who has cervical screening?
The NHS cervical screening programme invites women from age 25 to 64 for cervical screening. You get an invite every 3 years if you are aged 25 to 49. After that, you get an invite every 5 years until the age of 64. You need to be registered with a GP to get your screening invitations.
Cervical screening also applies to other people within this age range who have a cervix, such as trans men. You can talk to your GP about this.
If you are over 65 and have never had cervical screening, you can ask your GP for a test if you want one.
Benefits of cervical screening
Cervical screening helps prevent cervical cancer from developing and saves thousands of lives every year in the UK.
Since 2008, girls aged 12 and 13 have been offered a vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV). This is to protect against cancers caused by HPV, such as cervical cancer. The vaccine works best in young people, before they are likely to have come into contact with the virus.
A Scottish study in 2019 has shown a significant drop in the number of women with abnormal cervical cell changes after having routine HPV vaccination.
Although the vaccine protects against the 2 types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer, it doesn’t protect against other types of HPV that are linked with cervical cancer. This means that girls who have had the HPV vaccine still need to go for cervical screening from age 25.
If you have symptoms
As well as going for screening when you are invited, you still need to look out for any unusual changes to your body. Check for:
- abnormal bleeding (such as bleeding between periods)
- vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant
- pain during sex
See your doctor if you notice anything unusual. There are many conditions that can cause these symptoms. Most of them are much more common than cervical cancer. But it is important to get your symptoms checked out.
Check out the video below to find the answers to some common questions about cervical screening.