Is It Time for a Health Screening?
Many serious health conditions can go unnoticed for months – and even years – but health screenings can help us to identify any underlying issues, so we can significantly reduce our risk and improve the prognosis of any illness. After all, prevention is better than cure.
The NHS offers a number of optional free screenings at varying stages of your life. Private companies also offer a range of screening tests that you can pay for, from simple blood tests and physical examinations to full body scans. Some of these are not recommended by the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) because it’s not clear that the benefits outweigh the harm. For example, some tests involve CT scans, which use radiation. Below is a breakdown of the available NHS health screenings.
Cervical screenings, also known as ‘smear tests’ are offered to all women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64. It’s designed to check the health of cells in the cervix, to prevent cervical cancer from developing in the future. It’s offered every three years for those aged 25 to 49, and every five years between the ages of 50 and 64.
If you’re registered as a woman at a GP surgery and aged between 50 and 71, you’ll be offered an NHS breast screening (mammogram) every three years. A mammogram checks your breasts for signs of cancer, and save around 1,300 lives each year in the UK.
Bowel cancer screening
The NHS’s bowel cancer screening (which is a home test) is offered to everyone aged between 60 and 74. If you fall within this demographic, you’ll receive a screening every two years. However, the programme is currently in the process of expanding to make it available to people aged over 50.
Diabetic eye screening
From the age of 12, all people with diabetes are offered an annual diabetic eye test to check for early signs of diabetic retinopathy – which can lead to sight loss if left untreated.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening
AAA screenings are offered to men during the year they turn 65 to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms. This is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from your heart down through your stomach, which if left untreated could burst causing dangerous bleeding inside the stomach.
The first screening is for sickle cell and thalassaemia, offered before 10 weeks, followed by blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis. Mothers will be offered screenings for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome between 11 to 14 weeks, before a final check of the babies’ development between 18 to 21 weeks. As with any screening, you can choose which tests, if any, are right for you.
Newborn babies’ tests start with a physical examination straight after birth that covers the eyes, heart, hips and testes (if the baby’s a boy), closely followed by a hearing test. When a baby is about five days old, they’ll be offered a blood spot test to check for nine rare but serious health conditions.
While the tests outlined above are looking for specific conditions, many private screenings are often more of a preventative nature. A health adviser will review your weight, fitness, mobility, blood pressure and even mental health.
If anything comes up as a result of the test, the service will often work with you to ‘coach’ you for a time through a combination of online tools and follow-up calls.
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This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum