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Cancer and screening

The Facts

Cancer arises from the transformation of normal cells into tumour cells in a multi-stage process. Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and air pollution are risk factors for cancer (and other non-communicable diseases). Cancer risk can be reduced by:

  • not using tobacco
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • eating a healthy diet, including fruit and vegetables
  • doing physical activity on a regular basis
  • avoiding harmful use of alcohol
  • getting vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B if you belong to a group for which vaccination is recommended
  • avoiding ultraviolet radiation (which primarily results from exposure to the sun and artificial tanning devices)
  • reducing exposure to outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution

Reducing mortality

Cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early. There are two components of early detection:

  • early diagnosis – being aware of symptoms and seeking medical advice if you are concerned, access to diagnostic services and timely referral to treatment services

  • screening

What is screening

Screening is the process of identifying individuals who may be at higher risk of a disease or condition amongst large populations of healthy people. Screening can:

  • save lives or improve quality of life through early identification of a condition

  • reduce the chance of developing a serious condition or its complications

Screening does not guarantee protection. Receiving a low chance result does not prevent the person from developing the condition at a later date. 

Vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases and prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.

Screening Programmes

There are several key points where we are invited to attend national screening programmes, understandably there are worries and concerns about attending your first appointments, it may come up in conversation that someone is worried about attending an appointment. MECC is great to start a conversation to break down some of the barriers to attending screening appointments.

  • Ask – ‘Do you know the benefits of attending your NHS screening? Whether that be cervical, breast or bowel’
  • Assist – ‘Cancer screening programmes save thousands of lives per year. The aim of the screening programme isn’t to detect cancer, but early changes that could lead to cancer if left untreated’
  • The screening programmes are there for healthy people with no symptoms to access
  • Act – ‘You will be sent information on the screening programmes when you are eligible for them. This letter might come from your GP or from the screening programme directly, but please engage when you are invited to participate’

For more information go to for more information on the screening programmes.

For an example of how this is done watch the following video

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