Find out more about the common types of health screening

There are many different types of health screening – we’ve detailed the common types here.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening

The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart through your chest and abdomen (stomach).

As some people get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It can then start to expand and form what is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Large aneurysms can be life threatening. The risk of AAA increases if you smoke, have high blood pressure, or a close relative (parent, brother or sister) has had an AAA.

When to have an AAA screen?

Men aged 65 will be invited to a screening appointment using the information held about you at your GP surgery, so it is important that they always have your current address.

If your AAA scan is healthy you will not need to have another one. You may be invited back for monitoring if an aneurysm of any size is detected and you may be offered other treatments. You will find out the results of your scan on the day.

The screening programme is aimed at men because men are six times more likely to have this type of aneurysm than women. Around one in 25 men between 65-74 are thought to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The AAA screen is a one-off screen using an ultrasound scan to check for an aneurysm. The clinic in Portsmouth is weekly at St Mary’s Hospital.

Men over 65 who have not been screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm can refer themselves for a screen using the contact details below:

For further information, visit the NHS site about abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Antenatal and newborn screening

During your pregnancy and shortly after your baby is born, you will be given lots of information and be expected to make many choices – below is information to help you consider the choices about the screening and tests you may be offered during this time.

If you need extra information, your midwife will be happy to discuss all of the options with you again. Contact them to arrange an appointment for one of the pre-booking sessions or for another appointment if you have questions after your pre-booking session.

Screening for you and your baby begins very early on in your pregnancy – the antenatal screening timeline shows you what screening is offered at which stage of your pregnancy.

You will be expected to give your consent for each type of screening or test offered – so please make sure you understand exactly what you are agreeing to. Download the leaflets below for information on different types of screening or visit these NHS webpages:

If any of the screening shows that you or your baby is at increased risk of a condition, then you may be offered a diagnostic test. Your midwife will be able to tell you more about these tests, or find more information below.

How does screening work?

Out of any number of people who decide to have the screening test:

  • The majority will be correctly picked up as possibly having the condition being screened for and offered further investigation
  • A few who do have the condition will be missed
  • A few more who do not have the condition will be told they possibly might have it and be offered further investigation

Local maternity services provide you with a complete range of maternity care. What you are offered will be based upon what is most appropriate for your individual health needs – you may be offered care that is different to what a friend or family member has experienced.

Accessing maternity services in Portsmouth

Your GP can refer you to the maternity services for your first appointment – they will need to know you are pregnant. Or you can contact the maternity services directly:

Antenatal and newborn screening leaflets:

Bowel screening

Every 15 minutes, someone in England and Wales is diagnosed with bowel cancer. It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK. Bowel cancer screening uses a small sample of your stools collected at home to detect blood from polyps that may develop into cancer over time. Removing these polyps can reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer in the future. Bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer is highly treatable when detected in the early stages, which is why it’s so important that you are diagnosed as soon as possible

Although some people may find the screening test unpleasant, it can be done it the privacy of your own home.

Risks of bowel cancer screening

The screening test is not 100% reliable:

  • there is a chance that a cancer may be missed if it is not bleeding when the screening test is taken
  • not all bowel cancers detected by the screening can be successfully treated
  • around 4 in 100 people receive an unclear result which means the test will need to be repeated

When to have a bowel cancer screen

You will be contacted about your bowel screening using the information held about you at your doctor’s surgery, so it is very important that they always have your current address.

The screening kit (know as an FOB kit) is automatically sent to men and women between 60 and 74 every two years.

If you are over 74, request a screening kit by phoning 0800 707 60 60

The screening centre for Portsmouth is Queen Alexandra Hospital. If you are concerned by symptoms of bowel cancer or by your family history do not wait for your testing kit – speak to your GP.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Book an appointment with your doctor if, for the last three weeks, you have:

  • had blood in your stools
  • had looser stools than normal
  • lost a lot of weight without trying
  • experienced abdominal pain
  • experienced a change to your normal bowel habits
  • been more tired or out of breath than usual

More information:

Breast screening

Breast screening saves around 1,400 lives each year across England. One in nine women will develop breast cancer at some time in their lives. Breast screening involves an x-ray examination of the breasts, called a mammogram.

Breast screening can help find small changes in the breast before there are any other signs or symptoms, and detect cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel. Early detection means there is a good chance of successful treatment and a full recovery.

When to have a breast screening

You will be contacted about your breast screening using the information held about you at your GP surgery so it is very important that they always have your current address. All women between 50 and 70 and registered with a GP, are invited for breast screening every three years.

You will be invited at the same time as other women registered with your GP. You should expect to receive your first invitation at sometime between 50 and 53. Breast screening is also being extended to women aged 47-49.

If you are over 70 you can request a screening appointment by contacting the breast screening unit. If you have any concerns, do not wait to be invited to a screening appointment – speak to your GP.

Breast screening in Portsmouth

The screening centre for Portsmouth is Queen Alexandra Hospital, and in a mobile screening unit which operates at Asda in Fratton and Sainsbury’s in Farlington.

If you need to rearrange your appointment, phone 023 9222 2112.

If you have a physical disability or use a wheelchair, the screening team can advise you if breast screening is technically possible and which is the most appropriate place to be screened. Every effort is made to minimise any anxiety you may experience at all stages of the screening process.

More information:

Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 years old. Cervical cancer can develop when cells on the surface of the cervix (neck of the womb) begin to grow and divide abnormally. A virus called HPV (human papilloma virus) can cause these changes that may, in a few cases, turn into cervical cancer.

Most cases of cervical cancer could be prevented if women go for regular cervical screening (a smear test). By going for a regular smear test you can check the health of your cervix. The test can help to find any abnormal cell changes in the cervix before they have a chance to develop into cancer. By finding these abnormal changes early, they can be successfully treated.

The cervical screening (smear) test

The test is very simple and only takes around five minutes. It is done in private at your doctor’s surgery or local health clinic. You can ask to see a female doctor or nurse. The test should not be painful, although some women do find it slightly uncomfortable.

The doctor or nurse will take a sample using a thin plastic stick with a small brush to pick up cells from the surface of your cervix which are then sent to the laboratory for testing – you will get your results in two weeks.

Most women have normal results and will not need another test for three to five years. Your test may show that changes have been found in the cells – these changes act as an early warning sign that cervical cancer might develop in the future. The abnormal cells are not cancer and can be treated easily at an outpatient clinic.

If you have any concerns about the cervical screening test or your results you can talk it over with your doctor or nurse.

Alternatively, discuss any concerns with NHS direct by phoning 111 for free.

Women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible for free cervical screening

It’s very important to go for regular cervical screening (a smear test), even if you’re no longer sexually active or have gone through the menopause. Cervical screening can prevent around 75% of cancers in women who attend regularly.

  • Invitation letters are sent to women aged between 25 and 64 years old
  • Women between the ages of 25 and 49 are invited for cervical screening every three years
  • Women aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years

If you are aged between 25 and 64 and have never been screened make an appointment now – most women have a smear test at their doctors surgery or a local health, sexual health or family planning clinic. You may ask to see a female doctor or nurse.

Additional local health clinics in Portsmouth which offer cervical screening:

  • Cosham Health Centre, Vectis Way, PO6 3AW – phone 023 9221 9888 (Tuesday 4-6pm, Wednesday and Thursday 1-3pm)
  • Contraception and Sexual Health clinic, Floor 2, St Mary’s Hospital, Milton Road, PO3 6DP – phone 0300 300 2016 (walk in clinics 4-7pm)

Other local health clinics offering cervical screening can be found on the NHS website ‘let’s talk about it

More information:

Diabetic eye screening

Diabetes can affect the small blood vessels in the part of your eye called the retina; this is known as diabetic retinopathy. In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy will not affect your sight; however, if the condition gets worse, your sight will eventually be affected.

Eye screening is offered to people with diabetes so that diabetic retinopathy can be detected and treated as soon as possible.

When should I be screened for diabetic retinopathy?

Patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy – this is equally true whether you need insulin, tablets, or manage your diet to keep your diabetes under control.

All diabetic patients, adults and children over 12 years old, are offered screening to detect diabetic retinopathy every year.

When you are first diagnosed with diabetes your GP will contact the screening service and you will be invited to make an appointment for your first screen within three months.

A diabetic retinopathy eye screen is not a full eyesight test – continue to visit your optician for this.

The diabetic eye screening service in Portsmouth is managed by Care UK on behalf of the NHS. The service is run on an appointment basis, and you should automatically be invited to make an appointment at your nearest centre.

You can be screened in Portsmouth at St Mary’s Hospital, but there are many other screening clinics in south-east Hampshire and you can attend one of these clinics if it is more convenient. There is also a mobile service – contact the screening service:

  • phone 033 999 2597 (Monday – Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 8am-noon)

More information: