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Cancer Screenings -The What, Why And How

Did you know that something as simple as a routine cancer screening saves around 33,000 lives every year? That's not a small number! Cancer screenings are a vital part of your regular health checks, especially when you reach a certain age or fall within a certain demographic that’s more at risk. And yet thousands of people skip their routine screenings every year. Since screening could have played a big role for Jill and helped detect her cancer sooner, we wanted to talk about screenings today, what you can expect, and why they are so important.

What Are Cancer Screenings?

A cancer screening is simply a test or series of tests that can help find any cancer that may be in your body so that it can be treated as soon as possible. Some screenings can even spot changes in some cells that happen before they become cancerous, so that proactive treatment can be started. Cancer screening helps doctors to identify people who may:

  • Have cancer (so that it can be treated early and more effectively)

  • Need treatment or monitoring (to prevent cancer from developing)

Screening is a vital tool for diagnosing cancer early. Early diagnosis 'means that treatment is more likely to be effective, and there's a significant link between early diagnosis and improved survival rate.

The UK currently have 3 standard cancer screening programs for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, and the NHS will invite you for screenings at certain points in your life.

Should I Have A Cancer Screening?

Cancer screening isn't mandatory in the UK-its' entirely a personal choice. You can request a screening if you are concerned, or you will be offered one if there's evidence that you will benefit from it. While no screening will be 1006 accurate, they have saved countless lives over the years. How Cancer Screening Works One of the biggest reasons people avoid cancer screenings is that they. aren't sure what they involve. Fear of the unknown is very real, so here's a quick rundown of what each screening process looks like.

a group of people with a breast cancer screenings symbol

Breast Cancer Screening: Breast cancer screenings are done by performing a mammogram on the breast tissue. This involves placing your breasts onto a metal plate and having another metal plate lowered on top of them. This is to fatten the tissue, which can be a little uncomfortable. An X-ray machine then uses low-dose X-rays to capture images of the inside of the breast, which doctors use to spot early signs of breast Cancer.

Breast cancer screenings are offered to anyone registered female aged between 50 and 70. If you’re transgender or non-binary, your GP can arrange your screenings for you.

Cervical Cancer Screening: Also known as a smear test, cervical cancer screening involves a doctor collecting a sample of cervical cells, which are then analysed for abnormalities. This procedure takes less than 5 minutes and is completely painless.

Cervical screenings are offered to anyone registered as a female between 25 and 64. If you're a trans man or non-binary and have a cervix, you will still need to have a cervical cancer screening, and you can arrange this with your GP. You'll be invited for a screening every 3- 5 years.

Bowel Cancer Screening: These screenings aim to find signs of bowel cancer early before symptoms develop. Since bowel cancer is such an aggressive form of cancer, early detection is vital for successful treatment. If you're having symptoms of bowel cancer don't wait for your screening- speak to your GP right away.

Bowel cancer screenings are generally done as a home testing kit. You use it to collect a small stool sample and send it for testing (they do provide a pre-paid envelope!). If you're at high risk due to a very rare inherited gene, you may be offered more advanced screenings (colonoscopy) at a younger age.

Why Only 3 Types of Cancer?

You might be thinking, why do we only do screenings for 3 types of cancer? The answer is simple - there isn't enough evidence that mass screenings are effective for other forms of cancer. There is research going on into screening for other types of cancer, including prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer. All of these cancers can be tested for if there is concern, but there are no routine tests at the moment.

At Jills' Fundraising Journey, we are big advocates of regular screenings, as well as self-checking for any abnormalities. No one knows your body better than you, so if you feel as though something is wrong, get in touch with your GP and arrange a check. It's always better to be cautious in these situations! If you need help with that, check our resources page, or contact us directly to discuss a free holiday.


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