Cancer Screening

There are currently three national screening programmes:

Breast Screening

Women are offered screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 70. In 2017/8 the % of women screened was in England was 70.5%.

Screening saves about 1 life from breast cancer for every 200 women who are screened. This adds up to about 1,300 lives saved from breast cancer each year in the UK. This equates to about 3 women every time the screening service visits your PCN area, or 1 additional life saved for a practice with 10,000 patients.

Breast cancer screening programme from Digital Health Stoke-on-Trent on Vimeo.

Bowel Screening

In England, people between the ages of 60 and 74 years are offered screening every 2 years. This was undertaken using faecal occult bloods (FOBs) but we are now changing to Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). FIT only detects human blood and is specific to human haemoglobin, which is a significant advantage over FOB. It means that a FIT result is not influenced by the presence of other blood in stools, such as that ingested through diet.

Dorset and Southampton have moved to FIT and the rest of our area will be moving to FIT test by the end of the year. This is expected to increase the uptake of screening. The current uptake for bowel screening is only 60%.

Bowel scope screening with a flexible sigmoidoscope is being rolled out to all men and women aged 55.

Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer and It is estimated that the NHS bowel cancer screening programme could save 1,800 to 2,400 lives each year in England by 2025.

Cervical Screening

About 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and sadly about 690 die from this which is largely a preventable cancer. The cervical screening rate has fallen to an all-time low, in some areas the rate has fallen to 75%.

The introduction of HPV vaccination for girls aged 12-13 will have a significant impact and now with the introduction of HPV vaccination for boys the benefits will be increased.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening, or the “smear test”, is a routine health check that identifies potentially harmful cells and changes on the cervix. Cervical screening is not a test for cancer but catching any changes early can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills two women every day. Regular screenings can help reduce that number, which is why it’s so important you attend your screening when invited.

Who is the screening for?

  • If you are a woman, or someone with a cervix, you will be invited for cervical screening at regular intervals:
  • If you’re aged 25-49, you’ll be invited every 3 years
  • If you’re aged 50-64, you’ll be invited every 5 years
  • It is advisable you have regular cervical screenings, but ultimately, it is your choice whether you attend.

What happens during cervical screening?

Your screening will only take a minute or two, the whole appointment usually takes around ten minutes. During your screening a nurse will give you a private space in which to undress from the waist down. They will also give you a paper sheet to cover yourself and will ask you to lie on the bed. They’ll then place a speculum (a hollow cylinder with a rounded edge) in your vagina.

This helps them see your cervix. Then, using a small brush, they’ll gently gather some cells from your cervix. They’ll remove the speculum, put your sample in a pot and send it off for testing. You’ll get your results around two weeks later.

Your appointment

Your nurse is there to answer any questions or concerns you may have before your appointment, so please talk to them if you’re feeling nervous.

There are also a range of things you can do to put yourself at ease during your screening:

  • If you’d like, you can take a trusted friend or family member with you
  • Wear a long, loose dress or skirt. It may make you feel more covered during your screening
  • Take long, deep breaths to help you relax
  • Listen to a podcast or some music during your screening to put you at ease
  • Speculums come in a range of different sizes. It is a rounded cylinder which is gently opened so nurses can see your cervix. You may want to discuss the size of the speculum with the nurse before you have the test.

If you’re due to have a cervical screening, you’ll receive a letter in the post. Don’t ignore it, book your cervical screening today.

If you missed your previous screening, please contact us and we will book you an appointment.