Screening for older men

The NHS provides screening for two major killers of older men: bowel cancer and AAAs. (You're also entitled to free eye tests at 60.)
What is screening?

Screening has nothing to do with the cinema. It’s all about preventing you developing health problems. It is offered to groups of people who may be at risk of a particular problem. It is offered to everyone in this group. You don’t need any symptoms.

Most screening is for women - for example, cervical cancer screening or breast screening - but there is screening that men also need to know about. This article is about screening for men aged 50 and above.

What screening is there for men?

Men need to know about bowel cancer screening and AAA screening.

What is bowel cancer screening?

Home testing kits are available to all men and women from the age of 60-74. In a nutshell, the test looks for blood hidden in your pooh. This can be an early sign of bowel cancer. The test is very easy to do. You collect a single bit of pooh using a small plastic stick (provided), put it in a sample bottle and send it in the envelope supplied to the laboratory. The screening kit used in England is the faecal immunochemical test kit – known as the FIT kit.

To get your kit, ensure you are registered with a GP and that your GP has your correct address. If you’re in the age group, you should then be sent a testing kit every two years. If you're over 75, you can ask for a kit. More information on the NHS website.

I thought we were getting screening at age 50?

This being rolled out. In Scotland it is already available at 50. It is being made available across England and Wales during 2021.

Is FIT a new test?

Yes, the NHS used to use what was called FOBT testing. FIT is more sensitive and has a far lower chance of false positives than FOBT. FOBT was also a bit more complicated to do at home. in Scotland, where they switched to FIT in 2017, the new FIT test resulted in an increase in uptake of about 14%.

Bowel Cancer UK say the FIT test has the potential to detect twice as many cancers as the FOBT test.

Isn't there a one-off test?

No. There used to be an additional one-off test called bowel scope screening (or flexible sigmoidoscopy screening - flexi-sig) in some areas. This is no longer offered. 

What is AAA?

Not the American Automobile Association. 

The abdominal aorta is the main blood vessel that runs from the heart through the chest and abdomen (tummy) to the rest of the body. It can swell up and burst. This swelling is called an aneurysm. So AAA is an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

What is AAA screening?

The problem is that a swollen aorta often has no symptoms until the moment it bursts at which point it can be deadly. Most people (about 80%) who have an AAA that bursts will either die before they reach hospital or not survive surgery. So it is very serious.

The screening involves a simple ultrasound scan of your abdomen - similar to those given to pregnant women. It’s painless and takes 10-15 minutes.

If you are registered with a GP and your GP has your address, you should be invited for AAA screening in the year in which you turn 65. If you’re already over 65, you can ask for a scan by contacting your local AAA screening service directly.

Date published 14/12/15
Date of last review 23/03/21
Date of next review 22/03/24


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