Making screening work for you – Cancer Research UK

The 3 UK screening programmes, for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, save thousands of lives each year. Screening can help diagnose cancer at an early stage when there are more treatment options and treatment is more likely to be successful. And cervical screening can even prevent cancers from developing in the first place.

In the UK, the number of people completing screening sits around 65% for bowel cancer screening, 70% for breast cancer screening, and 68% for cervical screening.

Screening is always a personal choice, but it’s important that everyone who’s eligible for screening has the same opportunities to access it. While someone might decide that screening isn’t right for them, there are also people who might want to be screened but something gets in the way.

So, let’s look at how we can make screening work for you.

From getting the invite in the first place, attending the appointment or doing the test itself, to receiving results, here are our top tips for making the screening process just a little bit easier.

Step 1: Getting your screening invite

Let’s start at the very beginning – how do you get a screening invite?  

Well, first you need to make sure you are registered with a GP.  If you aren’t registered, you won’t receive an invite to cancer screening.  

Most people who are eligible for screening will receive their invite in the post automatically. This means for most people the invite will come to you when it’s time to consider screening, and there’s nothing you need to do beforehand. 

Just make sure your GP has your current home address – and let them know if this changes! If you have not been sent a letter, and think you should have been, contact your GP.  

But invites aren’t always automatic – so what now? 

Screening for transgender and non-binary people 

For some people, invites may not come automatically at all. For transgender or non-binary people, screening invites will be sent out based on the gender registered with their GP. But your sex assigned at birth, hormones, or surgeries you may have had, may impact what screening programmes are suitable for you.  

Your gender identity should not affect your access to screening, so speak to your GP or Gender Identity Clinic for advice. Our webpage on screening for trans or non-binary people helps to make sure you have the information you need. 

Step 2: Understanding your screening invite

Once that letter has landed on your doormat – open it, read it, and check that you understand the information.  

The letter inviting you to take part in screening contains information about the test or what happens at the screening appointment. 

Invites are available in different languages 

If the letter isn’t written in your first language, ask if your GP or the screening service can provide the information in a different language. You may also be able to find these online through Public Health England. Remember you could also ask a friend or relative to help you understand this information.  

Check out other screening resources 

Cancer screening can be confusing… there are often words people may not recognise like, mammograms, FIT tests, and HPV testing. And while screening invites aim to be clear and simple, often people do have lots of questions after reading the information.  

So, if you have questions… that’s ok!  

There are lots of resources available to help. Our screening pages help with many of your questions, and we have individual for leaflets for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. We also have information about screening in easy read format, which can be useful for people who speak English as a second language, people who find it hard to read and write, or people with conditions that affect how they process information. 

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