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NHS screening

As part of our public health role we have a responsibility to encourage people to take part in a variety of NHS screening programmes.

Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a certain disease or condition.

They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and any complications arising from the disease or condition.

There are 5 adult NHS screening programmes and, dependent on your age and gender, you'll be invited to take part in these screening programmes.

Bowel cancer screening programme

Men and women aged between 60 and 74 are invited every 2 years to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme.

The programme is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50 to 59-years-old. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021.

Bowel cancer screening aims to spot potential symptoms at an early stage. The test doesn't diagnose bowel cancer, but it can help to catch the early signs of bowel cancer by looking for blood in your poo.

The test kit is received by post, carried out at home and then sent to the laboratory for testing. Make sure your GP practice has your correct address so your kit is posted to the right place.

The pack comes with instructions on how to complete the test in the privacy of your own home. You'll need to collect a small sample of poo on a plastic stick, put it in a sample bottle, and post it back to the lab for testing.

Watch a video on how to do the bowel screening test.

If you're within the screening age range and have not yet received your first test kit, tel: 0800 7076060 to request one.

People aged over 75 can request a screening kit by calling free, tel: 0800 7076060.

Breast screening programme

Breast screening aims to detect breast cancers at an early stage, through mammography, before they have become large enough to feel.

Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited every 3 years to take part in the NHS breast screening programme.

Women over 70 can still have screening every 3 years, by making their own appointment at their local breast screening unit.

If you're 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.

You need to be registered with a GP surgery to be invited for breast screening.

Public Health England have produced an in-depth guide on how to spot the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. They also have advice and information about how to reduce your risk and what to expect at your screening appointment.

Find our more about the symptoms of breast cancer.

You can find more information about making an informed choice about breast screening. The information is available in a variety of languages.

Cervical screening programme

Cervical screening is available to women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64.

All eligible people who are registered with a GP (as female) should automatically receive an invitation by mail. Trans men (assigned female at birth) do not receive invitations if registered as male with their GP, but are still entitled to screening if they have a cervix.

Women aged 25 to 49 are invited every 3 years, and women aged 50 to 64 are invited every 5 years.

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb).

Women aged 65 and over are not routinely invited unless they need ongoing checks. It is highly unlikely that women of 65 and over will go on to develop the disease. Women aged 65 and over who have never had a test, or not had a text since the age of 50, are entitled to ask their GP for one.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening programme

The NHS abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening programme invites men for screening when they turn 65. It's important to ensure your GP has your correct address so your invite is posted to the right place.

The NHS offers screening in order to find aneurysms early so they can be checked regularly or treated if needed. The easiest way to find out if you have an aneurysm is to have an ultrasound scan of your abdomen.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm can be life threatening if not spotted early on.

If you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm you will not generally notice any symptoms. This means that you cannot tell if you have one, as you may not feel any pain or notice anything different.

The screening test for AAA is a simple ultrasound scan of the abdomen that usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Men over 65 who have not previously been screened or diagnosed with an aneurysm can request a scan by contacting their local abdominal screening programme.

Diabetic eye screening programme

The NHS diabetic eye screening programme aims to reduce the risk of sight loss in people with diabetes. The screening process helps to identify diabetic retinopathy early and ensure patients are offered effective treatment where necessary.

All people aged 12 and over with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) are offered annual screening appointments.

The screening test usually takes around 30 minutes.

At your appointment, screening staff will give you eye drops to make your pupils larger, so the retina can be seen more clearly and then take digital photos of your retina.

Screening in pregnancy

You will be offered some screening tests during pregnancy to try to find any health problems that could affect you or your baby, such as infectious diseases, Down's syndrome, or physical abnormalities.

The tests can help you make choices about care or treatment during your pregnancy or after your baby is born.

All screening tests offered by the NHS are free.

Find information about screening tests for you and your baby attached to this page.

Newborn screening

When a baby is born there are a range of routine health checks and tests that will take place in the first 6 weeks. These include:

  • a physical examination
  • a hearing test
  • a blood test (taken from the baby's heel)

Most babies are healthy and won't have any of the conditions or problems that the screening tests are looking for.

But for those babies that do have a health problem, the benefits of screening can be enormous. Early treatment can improve health and prevent serious problems.

The physical examination is usually carried out within 72 hours of your baby being born and again at 6 to 8 weeks old.

The examination is a head to toe check and includes checking the eyes, heart and other organs. Find out more about the NHS newborn physical examination programme.

The hearing test is usually carried out before your baby leaves hospital or within a few weeks of birth. It aims to spot any problems with hearing so that the correct support can be offered. Find out more about the NHS newborn hearing screening programme.

The blood test aims to check for signs of serious but rare conditions such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, inherited metabolic diseases and others.

The test will be carried out at 5 days old. A health professional will prick your baby's heel to collect blood samples which are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Find out more about the NHS newborn blood spot screening programme.