Preventing cancer

For women

Checking my breasts

It is important to get to know your breasts and what is normal for you. This can help you to check for any possible early signs of breast cancer. You can fit this check into your routine – you could do it in the bath or shower.

Look out for:

  • Changes in the shape, size or feel of your breasts
  • A new lump in one breast or armpit
  • Puckering, redness or dimpling of the skin
  • Changes in the position of your nipple or nipple discharge
  • New pain or discomfort on one side only

You should check your breasts at different times of the month so you know how they feel at different times and what is normal for you.

If you spot any of these signs then it is important to get them checked out by your GP. You can ask to see a female GP if you would like. You could also take someone along for support to your appointment if it would help.

Men can also have breast cancer. If you are a man and notice any of these changes, then you should also check them with your GP.


If you are a woman aged between 50 and 70 years old and are registered with a GP you will be invited for a mammogram test every three years.

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. The x-rays are checked to see if everything is normal and can detect signs of breast cancer early on. Only female staff carry out mammograms.

Smear tests

Smear tests check if there are any abnormal cells in the cervix to prevent cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower end of the uterus/womb at the top of the vagina. Finding abnormal cells does not mean you have cervical cancer. However, in some cases if you have abnormal cells you can receive treatment to prevent cancer. All women between 25 and 64 years old who are registered with a GP receive regular invites for cervical screening. If you are between 25 and 49 you will get an invitation every three years. If you are older than this, you will receive an invitation every five years.

The tests take about five minutes. A doctor or nurse will gently hold your vagina open and brush your cervix to take a sample of cells to be tested. It can feel uncomfortable but is not usually painful. Relaxing as much as possible will make the test easier. If you would specifically like the test to be carried out by a female you can ask for this.

For men

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It can develop slowly and there might not be signs for many years. 

The symptoms of prostate cancer can include: 

  • an increase and sometime urgent need to urinate
  • needing to strain while urinating
  • a feeling that your bladder is not fully emptied

These symptoms might not mean that you have prostate cancer but they should not be ignored if they are causing discomfort or are happening constantly. If you are concerned it is important that you see your GP.

For more information please visit Prostate Cancer UK 

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer can affect both men and women. Possible signs of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom
  • Blood in your stools
  • A change in bowel habit for three weeks or more (especially to looser or runny stools)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained extreme tiredness
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

If you have noticed any of these changes, then it is important to ask your GP to check this out.

If you are between 60 and 69 years old (in England), you will be invited along to a regular bowel cancer screening check. This is a home testing kit, where you provide a sample of your stools.

If any blood is found in it, then you will be asked to go along for more tests. However, this does not mean that you have bowel cancer.

Checking my testicles

It is important to get to know your testicles and what is normal for you. This can help you to spot any possible early signs of testicular cancer. It is best to check your testicles after a warm bath or shower. Be familiar with the size and weight of your testicles, and feel each one individually between your finger and thumb. They should be smooth with no lumps. If you find a lump or swelling, then it is important to ask your GP to check this out.

You could also take someone along for support to your appointment if you would like to.

Need more advice?

If you need more advice or information you can contact our Advice and Information Service.
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