World Cancer Day - All you need to know about screening

Updated: Feb 12

World Cancer Day is observed every year on February 4th, to increase the awareness of Cancer globally. The first WORLD CANCER DAY was celebrated in 2000 when the first World summit against Cancer was held in Paris.

Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.

There are 3 national screening programmes in the UK:

- Bowel cancer screening is offered to people aged 60-74 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland people aged 50-74 are offered bowel cancer screening. A screening kit is usually offered every 2 years. It is called a FIT Test (Faecal Immunochemical Test) which looks for tiny traces of blood in your stools.

- Breast cancer screening is offered to women, some transgender men and some non-binary people aged 50-70 in the UK. A mammogram is usually offered every 3 years to look for abnormal changes in the breasts.

- Cervical screening is offered to women, some transgender men and some non-binary people aged 25-64 in the UK. It is offered every 3 years to those aged 25-49 and every 5 years to those aged 50-64. People aged 65 and over may be offered another test if one of their last 3 tests were abnormal. It is a HPV test, looking to see if there is evidence of high risk types of Human Papillomavirus infection which causes the majority of cervical cancers.

The main potential benefit of screening is saving lives from cancer:

- Screening can detect cancer at an early stage. If cancer is picked up early, it means that treatment is more likely to work and more people survive.

- Cervical screening can detect abnormal changes before they can turn into cancer. Treating these early changes can prevent cancer from developing in the first place.

There are 2 main risks to screening:

- Screening can miss cancers (a ‘false negative’ result). That’s why it is still important to tell your doctor about any unusual changes, even if you have had screening recently.

- Screening can sometimes give people abnormal results when they don’t have cancer (a ‘false positive’ result). This can make people unnecessarily anxious or worried. It can mean people have follow-up tests that they don’t need, which may have side-effects. However, one of the factors that must be proven for a screening test to be approved is that it does not have a high false positive rate.

How do they decide the age range for screening?

With the particular screening tests that have been approved, researchers found that for many people lower than the threshold age, the potential harms of screening would outweigh the benefits e.g. being low risk at this age and greater chance of false positive results leading to unnecessary further tests and anxiety.

Normally, you can’t be screened for cancer before the age the programme starts. But if you have a family history of breast or bowel cancer, you may might be at higher risk and be able to start screening earlier. Talk to your GP if you are worried about your family history of cancer.

If you are older than the age range for bowel screening in England and Scotland, or for breast screening anywhere in the UK, you can still be screened if you want. You won’t get an automatic invitation, but your GP surgery can tell you who to contact to ask for screening.

Whatever your age, it’s important to remember screening is for people without symptoms. If you notice anything unusual, tell your doctor right away.

We are happy to offer private cancer screening tests mentioned above at MAHAAH Group in our clinic. This can be arranged at one of our healthcheck appointments. Screening is something important to discuss at an annual health check up as it's a great time to remind people and reinforce the importance of screening, and arrange any screening tests that are due or over due. It is important to prioritise health by having a medical MOT.

Disclaimer: Information in our blogs are as accurate and comprehensive as possible. This is general advice and should not be used as a substitute for the individual advice readers might receive from consulting their own doctor. For other medical professionals reading, it is advised to use your own clinical judgement when interpreting the information and deciding how to best apply this to the treatment of their patients. Please see our terms and conditions page for further information on this.

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