Cancer Screening

NCA is committed to increasing uptake of the cancer screening programmes.

Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs of disease.

It can save lives by finding cancers at an early stage, or even preventing them. Screening is not the same as the tests a person may have when doctors are diagnosing or treating cancer.

For screening to be useful the tests:

  • need to be reliable at picking up cancers or abnormalities that could lead to cancer
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part
  • must be something that people are willing to do
Benefits and risks of screening

We know that cancer screening saves thousands of lives each year. It can detect cancers at an early stage and in some cases, even prevent cancers from developing in the first place.

Breast Screening

Breast screening uses a test called mammography which involves taking x-rays of the breasts. Screening can help to find breast cancers early, when they are too small to see or feel. These tiny breast cancers are usually easier to treat than larger ones.

Overall, the breast screening programme finds cancer in about 8 out of every 1,000 women having screening.

For more information on breast screening

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/breast-screening-programme-overview

Cervical screening

Cervical screening is a way of preventing cancer by finding and treating abnormal cell changes in the neck of the womb (cervix). These changes could lead to cancer if left untreated.

The screening uses a test called cytology, which many people may know as the smear test. A nurse or doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix with a small brush. They send the sample to a laboratory to check for abnormalities.

In some cases, the samples are also tested for the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus increases the risk of cervical cancer.

For more information on cervical screening

https://www.gov.uk/topic/population-screening-programmes/cervical

Cervical Screening with Learning Disability – Support Materials for Sample Takers

Resources which have been developed to support women with a learning disability accessing cervical screening

Bowel Screening

Bowel cancer screening aims to check for bowel cancer or abnormalities that could lead to bowel cancer. The screening tests include:

  • testing for blood in your poo
  • looking inside your bowel using a scope (flexible sigmoidoscopy)

For more information on Bowel screening

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bowel-cancer-screening-programme-overview

Bowel screening flagging for people with a learning disability

The How to guide describes how to set up the bowel screening flagging project. It gives a clear process to follow and discusses challenges and limitations. This document includes the updated consent to share information advice.

LD bowel flagging how to guide

Promoting access to cancer screening for people with a learning disability

A social care guidance and resource pack for providers of learning disability services.

Cancer Research UK Facilitator programme

The Cancer Research UK Facilitator programme working alongside key partners have been providing the following to support improving cancer screening coverage

  • Promotion and implementation of CRUK Bowel Screening Handbook
  • Cancer Screening Myth Busting Sessions
  • Reducing barriers to Cancer Screening
  • Access to engagement tools and resources – both national and local
Cancer Screening – Support for people with a Learning Disability

Public Health England have recently released national guidance to help breast screening providers support women with a learning disability access their services.  The blog post highlights this guidance and provides links to easy guides for breast screening and cervical screening for women with a learning disability.

Available here:

Supporting women with learning disabilities to access breast screening