A shocking fourteen million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year, and one in two people born after 1962 will get cancer at some point in their lives. I’m sure you’ll agree, these are scary statistics. However medicine is advancing, and good screening processes mean more cases are being caught at the early treatable stages. Screening is the process of identifying people who appear to be healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. Your risks for different types of cancer depend on your age, gender and lifestyle. Here are some common cancer screening tests, and who should attend them.
Cervical Cancer Screening- All Women (Starting Early to Mid Twenties)
Cervical cancer is highly preventable, and with current screening techniques only a very small number of women die each year from the disease. The risk for women to develop cervical cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to lifestyle risk factors. High-risk forms of HPV is the main risk factor that can be avoided for cervical cancer, it is linked to 100% of all cervical cancer cases in the UK. The simple screening procedure is offered to women usually in their early to mid twenties, although the exact age is dependent on where you live. Different authorities have different ideas as to when is the best time, for example, UK NSC looked at the age to begin screening for cervical cancer 2012. They recommended not to invite women for cervical screening until the age of twenty five.
Breast Cancer Screening- Women Aged 50-70
About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, but there’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected in the early stages. As you have a higher chance of getting breast cancer as you age, all women who are aged between fifty and seventy are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every three years (women over the age of seventy are able to refer themselves). You might be eligible for breast cancer screening if you’re under the age of fifty if you’re at high risk, this could include having a close family member who has also had the disease.
Prostate Cancer Screening- Men Over 50
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. It develops slowly and there’s often no symptoms for many years. The cause is still not completely understood but age has a big role, and it’s most common in men over aged fifty. Genetics and your ethnic group can play a part, for example African and African-Caribbean men appear to be at higher risk with Asian men being at lower risk. Although there is no official prostate screening programme, men aged over fifty can ask their GP for a PSA test. This is a blood test which tests to see if PSA levels (a prostate antigen which CAN indicate prostate cancer) are raised. There are downsides to the test though, it’s not considered specific enough to be used as part of a national screening programme. Luckily there are effective treatments, HIFU for prostate cancer uses MRI guided high fusion to accurately localise the location of cancers and provide a clear target for biopsies. This is incredibly useful, since most prostate cancers can not be identified on the evaluations of ultrasound alone
Bowel Cancer Screening- Everyone Aged 60-74
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. If it’s detected in the early stages before any symptoms appear, it’s easier to treat. You also have a much better chance of surviving it. In the UK, bowel screening currently uses Faecal Occult Blood Testing, also called FOBT or FOB which you do at home. People younger than sixty are not eligible for the screening test, but can have bowel scope screening. If caught at stage one almost everyone survives bowel cancer, but this drops to just 5% at stage four. This highlights the massive importance of screening and how it can save lives.