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[Animation] Cancer prevention and awareness

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
13 January 2022
Next review due January 2025
Being aware of potential cancer symptoms and attending screening appointments can save your life. Find out about simple checks you can do at home and what cancer screening programmes are available here in the UK.

Checking your skin and moles

Regularly checking your skin and moles for any changes can help detect skin cancer at an early stage.

Always get a mole checked if it:

  • changes shape
  • gets bigger
  • changes colour or becomes darker
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding

 

If you notice any new lumps on your skin - or sore, scaly patches – it’s always best to get it checked out.

Checking your testicles

If you have testicles, you should regularly check them for any lumps or changes. Testicular cancer is easier to treat if you find it early.

Check your testicles when you’re warm and standing up, maybe after having a shower or bath.

Roll each testicle between your thumb and finger and check for any lumps, changes in size or swelling. Always contact a GP if you find anything unusual or have pain in either testicle.

Checking your breasts

Checking your breasts regularly helps you know what’s normal for you. Look at each breast and nipple to check for any changes in size or shape. This includes whether:

  • your nipple has sunken or become inverted (turns inwards)
  • or if there is any fluid (discharge) or blood coming from one or both nipples

 

Check your skin for any:

  • redness
  • rashes
  • dimpling
  • puckering

 

Feel for any lumps or painful areas. Use the flat part of your fingers to gently work around each breast, pressing in small, circular motions.

Always see a GP if you notice any unusual changes.

An image showing how a lump can be a symptom of breast cancer 
An image showing how discharge can be a symptom of breast cancer 
An image showing how a change in the texture of your skin can be a symptom of breast cancer 
An image showing how a rash can be a symptom of breast cancer 
Infographic showing how a change to your nipple can be a symptom of breast cancer 
An image showing how pain in your armpit can be a symptom of breast cancer 
An image showing how a change in the size or shape of your breast can be a symptom of breast cancer 

 

Breast screening

Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early, when they have the best chance of being cured. Anyone between the ages of 50 and 71, and registered with a GP as female, will be invited for breast screening every three years. You'll get a letter in the post inviting you.

Breast screening uses a test called mammography, which involves taking x-rays of your breasts.

Cervical screening

In England, all people with a cervix aged 25 to 49 will be invited for a cervical screening appointment every three years. People aged 50 to 64, and those who live in Scotland and Wales, receive invitations every five years.

Cervical screening is commonly called a smear test and checks the health of your cervix. Your cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.

During your screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix.

This sample is checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause changes to the cells of your cervix. If these cells are found, they can be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

Bowel cancer screening

UK screening programmes send a bowel cancer testing kit every two years to eligible people between the ages of 50 and 74. The age will vary depending on where you live in the UK.

  • In Scotland, it’s offered to men and women aged between 50 and 74.
  • In Wales, it’s offered to men and women aged between 58 and 74.
  • In England, it’s offered to men and women aged between 60 and 74.

 

The kit comes in the post and is easy to do in the comfort of your own home.

In the kit, you’ll find a small stick which is used to collect a sample of your poo. It will come with full instructions, guiding you step by step on how to collect and return your sample correctly.

There are certain symptoms to be aware of that can indicate bowel cancer. Always see a GP if you have any of the following.

  • Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your poo.
  • Changes in your bowel habits.
  • Persistent pain or bloating in your tummy.
  • Fatigue or weight loss for no apparent reason.

 

An image showing blood in poo, symptom of bowel cancer 
An image showing changes in bowel habits 
An image showing pain or bloating in tummy 
An image showing the symptoms of bowel cancer- fatigue 
 

PSA testing for prostate cancer

A PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but not necessarily cancer.

This is why it’s not offered as part of a national screening programme. But you can request one over the age of 50. You may also be offered a PSA test as part of a general health check.

There are advantages and disadvantages of having a PSA test. It’s a good idea to learn more about these before deciding to have it.

There are certain symptoms to be aware of that can indicate prostate cancer. Always see a GP if you have any of the following.

  • Problems passing urine, such as needing to go urgently or often, or being unable to go at all.
  • Blood in your urine.
  • Pain when you wee.
  • A urine infection.

 

These are also symptoms of much less serious conditions. But it’s always worth contacting a GP if you have them.


Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

    • Melanoma warning signs. Skin Cancer Foundation. www.skincancer.org, last updated January 2021
    • NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. Melanoma and pigmented lesions. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised March 2017
    • Gaddam SJ, Chesnut GT. Testicle cancer. StatPearls Publishing. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563159/, last updated November 2021
    • How to check your balls (testicles). Macmillan. Macmillan.co.uk, published 2016
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    • Cervical screening (smear test). NHS Inform. www.nhsinform.scot, last updated 2 November 2021
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    • Bowel screening. NHS Inform. www.nhsinform.scot, last updated 15 December 2021
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    • Bowel cancer screening: programme overview. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, last updated March 2021
    • Symptoms of bowel cancer. Bowel Cancer UK. www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk, last reviewed June 2019
    • Information about PSA testing. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised June 2021
    • What are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer? NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised June 2021

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