Importance of Cancer Screening Programmes

cervical cancer screening

Early detection of cancer can greatly increase the likelihood of successful treatment. Cancer screening is essential in healthcare with two major components in education to promote early diagnosis and actual screening.

The ability to recognise possible warning signs of cancer and taking prompt action can effectively lead to early diagnosis. While there are several causes of cancer, increased awareness of the warning signs can have a great impact on fighting the dreaded disease. This extends to physicians, nurses, pharmacy teams and other healthcare providers as well as the general public.

Early signs of cancer can include lumps, sores that don’t often heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion and chronic hoarseness. Early diagnosis is even more important for the following types of cancers – breast, cervix, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum and skin. Getting screened for cancer is one of the most important things people should do as it really can save lives.

Cervical Cancer Screening

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Jade Goodys death and certainly highlights the importance of Cervical Cancer screening. The reality TV star was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008 and despite having emergency surgery in February 2009, her cancer spread. Sadly, she passed away on March 22, 2009 leaving behind a loving family and many fans across the world.

Her story should encourage women to get regular checks but it seems cervical cancer screening numbers have actually dropped. It is vitally important that all women get screened as it aims at detecting precancerous changes that could lead to cancer if left untreated. Cervical screening is offered to women in the UK aged 25-64 and women between 25-49 are invited every three years while those aged 50-64 every five years.

While 83% of women survive cervical cancer for the first year, this number falls to 67% who survive for five years or more. From 20 of the most common cancers in England and Wales, ten-year survival for cervical cancer ranks 8th highest overall. These high survival rates are mainly as a result of regular cervical screening as it detects cervical cancer early on. At this stage, treatment is still likely to be successful. For more detailed statistics, take a look at the information from Cancer Research UK.

Breast Cancer Screening

Approximately 1 in 8 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, performing a regular breast cancer screening can help with early detection which makes treatment far more successful. Recovery and survival rates are also much higher. In fact, breast cancer screening saves 5 lives for every 1,000 people screened. 96% of women survive breast cancer for at least one year and that drops to 87% survival for five years or more. The good news is that breast cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years.

Breast cancer screening aims at finding cancer early on and uses an X-ray test called a mammogram. It can identify cancers when they’re too small to see or even feel. The likelihood of women getting breast cancer increases with age which means all women aged between 50 and 71, and registered with a GP, will automatically get breast cancer screening every 3 years. For those over 71, they can request breast cancer screening from their GP or screening clinic. Here is a closer look at some breast cancer survival statistics.

Bowel Cancer Screening

Bowel cancer is common in both men and women where approximately 1 in 20 people will get it. Screening can help detect cancerous cells at an early stage when it’s still easy to diagnose and treat. Not only does it check for existing cancers but it also helps identify and remove small growths in the bowel called polyps.

There are two types of bowel cancer screening tests that the NHS use:

  • Bowel scope screening test uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached at the end to look for (and remove) any polyps inside the bowel. A one-off bowel scope test is recommended for people 55 years of age.
  • Home bowel cancer screening testing kit, also know as the FOB test. This is a home kit where you collect small stool sample and send it to a laboratory to check for tiny amounts of blood. This is often an indication of cancer.

Men and women aged 60-74 years are invited for a bowel screening every two years. When someone is over 74, they can request a test kit. If these tests identify something unusual, further testing might be required to confirm or rule out cancer. 90% of people found with bowel cancer at stage 1 are still alive after 5 years where 90% with stage 4 are not. Here is some additional information about bowel cancer statistics.

Causes Of Cancer

In essence, cancer refers to a large number of diseases characterised by abnormal cells developing and dividing uncontrollably. They have the uncanny ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue at alarming rates. It often spreads quickly through your body and is the second-leading cause of death around the world. However, survival rates are improving for many types of cancer mainly as a result of better cancer screening processes and cancer treatment.

Cancer is associated with risk factors and while it’s common in the elderly, it can be diagnosed at any age. Lifestyle choices are also known to increase cancer risk especially smoking, excessive drinking, over exposure to the sun, obesity and even practicing unsafe sex. If people change these habits rather sooner than later, they will lower their risk of cancer.

Other risk factors include family history, general health conditions such as ulcerative colitis and your home or work environment. Besides smoking, chemicals like asbestos and benzene are also associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Cancer Prevention Tips

While we may not be able to cure cancer just yet, there are several ways we can reduce the risk.

  • If you’re a smoker, stop smoking as it is related to many different types  of cancer and not just lung cancer
  • Avoid harmful UV rays as it increases your risk of skin cancer
  • Follow a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins
  • Maintain a good body weight as obesity is a known cause for cancer
  • Exercise more often, at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If you’re unfit, start with a slow walk and gradually work your way up to longer and more intense sessions
  • Don’t drink excessively. Stick to 14 units a week for both men and women with some alcohol free days
  • Schedule regular cancer screening based on your risk factors
  • Ask your GP about immunizations against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B

You can also get involved in the Cancer Research UK 10,000 steps in March ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ challenge. All you have to do is walk 10,000 steps every day in March. Not only will you raise money for life-saving cancer research, you also get to have fun and be active in the process. Sign up for your fundraising pack and online Giving Page today and help fight cancer now and tomorrow.

Training For Pharmacy Teams

VirtualOutcomes developed training on Cervical Cancer and Bowel Cancer Screening with Breast Cancer Screening coming soon. We encourage pharmacy teams to talk to their patients within the relevant age brackets to reinforce the message about how important it is to get screened. Dispel the myths about how uncomfortable or time-consuming it is and reassure them of the countless benefits.

We have courses available on obesity and smoking which are the two largest causes of cancer in the UK. To make things even more interesting, you can order fantastic leaflets, posters and other materials to give your patients.

Log onto VirtualOutcomes pharmacy training and enter your F Code to access our courses. It is available free of charge for pharmacies if their LPC is live. If the course is unavailable for your pharmacy, it’s likely that your LPC hasn’t signed up for it yet. Contact us to find out more about our courses and how you can register.