3 types of cancer screening we should all be aware of


NHS doctor Kiran Johal, talks about the three types of cancer screening available and why getting a health check is vital


With one in two likely to get cancer, according to Cancer Research, understandably it’s a concern for many of us.

Anyone who’s been through a cancer diagnosis - or knows someone who has – will be aware of the life-changing impact it can have on a person and on those around them.

The good news, however, is that we’re more likely to survive cancer than ever before. Stats show that 50% of people survive cancer for longer than 10 years and 38% of cancers are preventable.

One of the ways to help improve the chances of a positive outcome is to detect cancer early and start treatment as soon as possible.

Cancer screening saves lives

When cancer is caught at an early stage, treatment is often more effective, and the chances of successful recovery are much higher,” says Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research.

This is why speeding up cancer diagnosis can make an enormous difference to survival rates.

It is vital that people are encouraged to come forward for checks if they have symptoms.

When it does come to getting screened for cancer, it’s helpful to know what types of screening are available, while also understanding what it is you’re walking into. We caught up with Dr Kiran Johal, a NHS doctor.

What does health screening involve?

Screening involves testing for cancer before the signs and symptoms appear,” Dr Kiran explains.

Detecting the disease at an earlier stage decreases the likelihood that it has spread to other parts of the body so the chance of successful treatment and survival is higher.

With this in mind, there are three types of cancer screening available.

1. Breast cancer screening

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 14 to 49, and accounts for 31% of all cancers among women.

This type of screening involves a mammogram, which is a special type of X-ray designed to detect small lumps in the breast before they're noticeable,” adds Dr Kiran.

All women aged between 50-71 years are invited for mammograms on a 3 yearly basis.

It’s important to note that men aren’t struck out for this cancer either, so if you feel any lumps and bumps that you’re not too sure of, make sure you’re registered to a GP and book an appointment.

2. Cervical cancer screening

NHS data shows around 690 women die from the disease ever year and previous estimates suggest regular screening could prevent 83% of deaths.

Cervical cancer screening is available for women aged 25-64 every five years. As Dr Johal explains, “it involves taking a sample of cells from the neck of the womb using a small brush.”

“These cells are then tested for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is transmitted via sexual contact and is linked to almost all cases of cervical cancer

“If the virus is present, the cells will then be tested for any cancerous changes, and you may be invited for further tests depending on these results.”

3. Bowel cancer screening

Cancer Research UK revealed that 1 in 15 UK males and 1 in 18 UK females will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime, and of all cases54%are preventable.

A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many facets of life, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors.In 2017, 72% of bowel cancer cases were caused by lifestyle factors, whether that be smoking, drinking alcohol, too little activity, or being overweight.

The bowel cancer screening programme is open to all adults over the age of 60 in England although the ages in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vary slightly.

Dr Kiran says, “It involves sending off a stool sample which is tested for the presence of tiny amounts of blood that may be due to cancer.”

In addition to screening programmes, spreading awareness of the signs and symptoms of various cancers is also an effective way to ensure people detect it early.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for, according to Dr Kiran:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • New lumps and bumps

More specific symptoms related to certain cancers include:

  • Persistent cough (lung cancer)
  • Blood in your stools (bowel cancer)
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (cervical cancer).

Health checks might seem like a chore or even a bit scary, but early diagnosis of cancer can make all the difference.

Members of Vitality who have a health insurance plan can contact us straight away and be referred to our clinic. You won’t need to go through your GP first.

However, if you’re not insured with Vitality, please contact your GP as soon as possible and they can refer you to the NHS pathway should you require it.

When a member is diagnosed with cancer, Vitality Advanced Cancer Cover provides access to an array of treatments.

This will extend to treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, biological and hormone therapy, bisphosphonate treatments, as well as the latest cutting-edge treatments where clinically appropriate.

Visit vitality.co.uk or Member Zone for more information.

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