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 55 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 aged 60-74. The kit is looking for FOB or faecal occult blood. 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 wipe a bit of pooh on a special card and send it in the envelope supplied to the laboratory. 

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.

The NHS estimates that regular bowel cancer screening using the FOB test reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%.

Is the 'pooh test' the only form of bowel cancer screening?

No. An additional one-off test called bowel scope screening (or flexible sigmoidoscopy screening - flexi-sig) is available in some areas. This is offered to men and women at the age of 55. 

A doctor or nurse uses a thin, flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel. It takes just a few minutes. 

Again, as long as you’re registered with a GP and live in an area where the test is available (about two-thirds of England offers the test), you should be sent an invitation automatically. 

Ask your GP whether the test is available in your area.

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 19/11/20
Date of next review 19/11/23


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