DD, Aged 17

    When people would talk they didn't know what to say which was understandable.  more...


    Mimi - 15 years old

    I lost myself doing stupid things, angry and sad and depressed at everything. I ended up failing my classes, not caring about school, and getting into fights.  more...


    Chelsea - 14 years old

    I stuck my head round the door in the room mum was in, and she looked really ill. I couldn't understand what was happening - one minute my mum was fine and the next she was ill.  more...


    Clair - aged 14

    Something I wish is I could just have one more day with my dad! - to tell him how much I love him and how sorry I am for all the bad things I have said and done to him!  more...


    Nicole - 17 years old

    This time the doctors are unable to operate. He has already had 6 sessions of chemo and is having another 6 sessions. I cannot help feeling I may lose him.  more...


    Rirrif - 15 years old

    I have been staying with my dad because my mom doesn't want me around when she is sick, which is all the time. My dad works at night so I spend a lot of time alone since I'm not with my mom. I'm afraid she is going to die and I'll blame myself for not being there more. more...


    HT - 13 years old

    She has been so strong about this and is keen to put it all behind her.  more...

Cancer screening

Cancer screening is when healthy people have tests to check that they do not have cancer, or to discover it early if they do. Sometimes screening can find changes in cells that have not yet developed into cancer but that could lead to cancer if they were not treated.

We can only screen for cancers if we have reliable tests that can find cancer early and are not too complicated to carry out. For most types of cancer, this is not the case and that is the reason why we cannot be screened for all types of cancers.

There are currently only three types of cancers that are screened for in the UK, i.e. the NHS has screening programmes where healthy people with no symptoms are contacted and offered to have a test. The three cancer types are breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer.

The screening programme to check the health of cells in the cervix  (through smear tests) is offered in England, Wales and Scotland every three years to women between the ages of 26 and 49, and every five years to women between the ages of 50 and 64. 

Breast cancer screening in the UK is for women who are between 50 and 70 years old and they are offered mammogram (x-ray of the breasts) every 3 years. Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early as the mammogram can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel. And the earlier a cancer is found, the better the chances are for good recovery. 

The screening programme for bowel cancer varies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with regard to who is offered the screening test. Mostly, the test is offered to people between the ages 60 to 74 (in Scotland between the ages 50 - 74). Every two years, they are sent a testing kit in the post that can be used to look for blood in the poo. Blood in the poo can be a sign of cancer but other conditions can also cause that to happen. Therefore people will be investigated further if blood has been found to see if they have cancer or something else.

Another test called bowel scope screening is also being gradually introduced in England. The test involves a doctor or nurse using a thin, flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel. This one-off test is offered to men and women at the age of 55 but it is not offered all over the country yet. 

There are also discussions about the possibility of screening for prostate cancer and ovarian cancer but there are no reliable tests yet so this has not been established for now.

In addition to the above national screening programmes, people with a high risk of developing certain types of cancer can also be offered various tests and check-ups so that a potential cancer can be discovered early. For example, people with a high risk of the skin cancer melanoma, can have their moles checked to make sure that they are not developing into cancer.

Checking for cancer yourself
As well as making use of the nationally available cancer screening programmes, it is very important that we keep an eye on ourselves to be aware of changes in our bodies that are not normal for us. Most likely, things that we worry about are not cancer, but cancer is always easier to treat when it’s discovered early so it’s a good idea to keep an eye and not block it out completely. We know of course that cancer is very rare in children and young people so it is very unlikely that it will happen. However, you should still be aware of things like lumps in your body that haven’t been there before, changes in moles on your skin, changes in bowel habits that last over time, any unusual bleeding or if you lose weight without intending to do so and that can’t be explained in other ways.

There are many other symptoms of cancer too because there are so many different types of cancer but we are not listing them all here. And it’s important to remember - all of the above symptoms can be caused by other things, as well as cancer. However, if you notice any of the above, you should go to your GP. It is always better to get yourself checked out. If something else is causing bleeding for example, then that can be looked at by your doctor and you can be given the right treatment. Remember that it is very rare for young people to get cancer.

Follow these links to read more about the NHS cancer screening and the screening programme in Scotland

Please get in touch with us if you have any worries or questions about cancer.

Page updated 6 July 2017