Taking care of your heart and cancer screening

Causes of cancer and screening for cancer

Find out about the causes of cancer, how to get support, and about breast, cervical bowel and lung screening in Southwark. 

Nearly one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. Advances in treatment mean that more people are surviving cancer. However, even for those considered cured, it can be difficult to get back to normal. If you or someone you know is living with cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support provides free advice and support.

What causes cancer

There are many causes of cancer, including genetic, environmental and lifestyle. You can reduce your risk of developing some cancers by moving more, eating well, being a healthy weight, cutting back on alcohol and quitting smoking. These also help us to prevent and manage other long-term conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Making a change can be hard our support services can help you with healthy lifestyle changes.

Cancer screening in England

There are three types of cancer screening for adults in England - cervical, breast and bowel. They save thousands of lives each year.  

Cancer screening can:

  • help detect cancer at an early stage, before there are any symptoms
  • sometimes prevent cancer from developing in the first place

By spotting cancer at an earlier stage, you may get treated when it's more likely to be successful. 

We strongly recommend that you attend the screening when invited. You can find out more about cancer screening in Southwark from the NHS South East London Cancer Alliance.

What to do if you notice any signs of cancer

If you notice any signs of cancer, don’t wait to be invited to a screening appointment. Contact your GP straight away.

Cervical cancer screening in Southwark

In Southwark, women and people with a cervix:

  • aged 25 to 49 years are invited every three years for cervical screening
  • and those aged 50 to 64 invited are every five years.

If you haven't received an invitation letter but are due for screening, contact your GP.

You can ask for a female nurse if you prefer when booking your appointment. If you need additional support (for example, if you have a learning disability, autism or severe mental illness), you can ask for a double-length appointment or other reasonable adjustments.

Cervical screening for transgender and non-binary people

CliniQ provides cervical screening services designed for transgender and non-binary people.


Watch a video about the cervical screening service for transgender and non-binary people (also in British Sign Language) at the Caldecot Centre, King’s College Hospital.

Book an appointment at the CliniQ cervical screening service at the Caldecot Centre, King’s College Hospital.

Cervical screening for people who’ve experienced sexual violence

My Body Back clinics provides cervical screening designed for those who have experienced sexual violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM).

You can find further information on cervical screening from the NHS.

View translated NHS resources about cervical cancer or download an easy-read guide on the benefits and risks of cervical screening.

If you’ve noticed a change or symptoms of cervical cancer, don’t wait for your screening appointment. Tell your GP as soon as possible.

Breast cancer screening in Southwark

You should be invited for breast cancer screening every three years if you're a woman or a trans man who:

  • has not had both breasts removed (double mastectomy)
  • is aged
  • is aged 50 up to your 71st birthday

If you get an NHS breast invitation letter for cancer screening from the NHS, you can book an appointment by calling the telephone number in the letter.

Find out about breast screening appointments in London.

You can find more information on breast screening from the NHS.

View translated NHS resources on breast screening and an easy-read guide on the benefits and risks of breast screening.

You should also check your own breasts regularly to know what is normal for you. If you notice any changes or have any concerns, contact your GP.

Bowel cancer screening in Southwark 

If you're a Southwark resident aged 54 to 74 years old you'll be sent a bowel cancer home testing kit in the post every two years.

View translated NHS resources on the benefits and risks of bowel cancer screening, and how to use the home bowel testing kit. View the easy-read guide on the benefits and risks of bowel cancer screening.

Contact your GP if you have any symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than three weeks.

Lung cancer and lung health checks in Southwark

People in Southwark aged 55 to 74 who are registered as current or former smokers with their GP may get a free NHS lung health check if their GP surgery is part of the scheme. This is because smokers have a higher risk of developing lung problems. The lung health check can uncover problems, including lung cancer, before symptoms appear, and when it's more treatable.

If the NHS has contacted you about a lung health check, it's important that you go. Even if you feel fine, the check can uncover problems long before you notice them and when it is more treatable.

What to do if you have symptoms of lung cancer 

The lung health check is for people without symptoms. If you’ve noticed a change or symptoms of lung cancer, do not wait for your lung health check appointment. Tell your GP as soon as possible.

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer

Today, 1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer, and 1 in 12 will die from the disease.  Early detection and treatment of cancer is vital in helping people to live longer and healthier lives.

So in addition to the screening programmes available, all Black men aged 45 and over, are encouraged to ask their GP Practice for a PSA blood test. A PSA blood test involves taking a blood sample from the arm and it can help identify if you need to be sent to hospital for further tests for prostate cancer. 

Page last updated: 06 February 2024


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