Overview

Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.

There are a number of national screening programmes in Scotland. Screening programmes are designed to detect early signs of a disease or condition and to provide referral and treatment where necessary.

Types of screening

If you’re invited to be screened, you’ll be tested for a particular condition — for example a bowel screen only looks for signs of bowel cancer.

In Scotland, screening is offered for:

Pregnancy and newborn screening are also offered to check the health of your baby.

Eligibility

You'll be invited to be screened based on your age and/or gender. This is because you're at greater risk of developing certain diseases and conditions depending on your age and sometimes whether you're male or female.

So you're invited to the right screening programme at the right time, make sure your GP practice has your current address.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is only offered to 65 year old men. However, if you’re over 65 and have never been screened, you can arrange an appointment by phoning your local AAA screening centre.

More about AAA screening

Bowel screening

Bowel screening is offered every 2 years to men and woman aged 50 to 74. If you’re 75 or over, you can still take a bowel screening test every 2 years. However, you’ll need to request a new test kit each time.

More about bowel screening

Breast screening

Breast screening is offered every 3 years to woman aged 50 to 70. If you're over the age of 70 you can continue to have breast screening, but you'll need to arrange your own appointment every 3 years.

More about breast screening

Cervical screening

Cervical screening is offered every 3 or 5 years depending on age to woman aged 25 to 64. If you're on non-routine screening (where screening results have shown changes that need further investigation or follow up) you'll be invited for cervical screening up to 70 years of age.

More about cervical screening

Diabetic retinopathy screening (DRS)

Diabetic retinopathy screening (DRS) is offered every year to people with diabetes over the age of 12.

More about diabetic retinopathy screening

Newborn screening

All new parents will be offered screening for their child after birth.

More about newborn screening

Pregnancy screening

All expectant parents will be offered screening during the term of pregnancy.

More about pregnancy screening

Screening for the transgender community

Whether you're a trans-man, trans-woman, identify as non-binary or describe your gender in another way, it's important you're aware of which screening services you're eligible for.

Find out which screening services you're eligible for as a non-binary or transgender person

Benefits and risks

Before accepting a screening invitation, you should think about the benefits and risks involved.

Benefits

Screening can find the signs of serious conditions before any symptoms develop.

If a condition is found early:

  • it’s less likely to become severe
  • you’re less likely to need major treatment

As a result, regular screening can reduce the number of deaths from certain conditions.

Risks

While screening can improve quality of life, and prevent deaths through early diagnosis, no test is 100% accurate. There are risks involved in some types of screening.

It’s important to have realistic expectations of what screening can offer. Although screening can reduce the risk of developing a condition, or complications, it can’t always protect you from a particular illness.

Personal information

The NHS keeps a record of your personal screening information, including test results. All NHS staff must keep your personal health information confidential.

You have the right to see and get a copy of the information that the screening centre holds about you.

Sharing your information

Screening test information, including test samples, may be used for research, education and training. Any information used in this way will have personal details removed.

Service evaluation

The NHS regularly reviews screening services to make sure you’re offered the best service possible.

Screening information is used to:

  • identify areas for improvement
  • monitor the effectiveness of the service
  • make sure these services meet the agreed standard

Further information

You can find out more about how the NHS uses your information, and your rights concerning this, on the following pages: