Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Risk Reduction

We know that lifestyle can play a part in reducing your risk of developing cancer. This page will give you some information on early detection, prevention and risk reduction with links to quality-assured websites for further information, advice and support. We hope you find it useful.

Cancer screening

In Scotland, we offer three cancer screening programmes for bowel, breast and cervical cancers. Screening helps pick up cancers early thus giving a better chance of survival and the potential for less invasive treatment, if cancer is detected. Each programme has its own criteria for being invited:

Bowel screening – men and women aged 50 -74 years are sent a test kit to their home every 2 years to complete and return. For any questions on bowel screening visit 

Breast screening – Women are invited aged 50-70 years for a mammogram which looks for cancers that are too small to see of feel. This programme is run on a 3-year cycle so if you are not invited when you turn 50 do not worry, your invite will be sent out via your GP surgery within 3 years of your 50th birthday. You will be invited to attend a mobile unit or a screening centre depending on where you live. 

Cervical screening – women and anyone with a cervix aged 25-64 years are invited every 3 years until they are 49 and then every 5 years until the age of 64. This test helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). If HPV is found in your sample this could cause cervical cell changes (abnormal cells) which could lead to cancer if left untreated. In addition, young people aged 11-13 will be offered an HPV vaccination at school. This together with cervical screening should eradicate cervical cancer in the future.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

Not all cancers can be prevented but there are things we can do to reduce risk:

  • Do not smoke. If you are a smoker, visit Quit Your Way Scotland | NHS inform for support to quit
  • Maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Stay safe in the sun

For lots of advice on how to reduce your risk, visit Can cancer be prevented? | How to reduce your risk of cancer ( 

Signs and Symptoms

The earlier you visit your doctor with concerns over cancer the better. A 5-minute appointment could save your life. There are over 200 different cancers with a range of symptoms but things like unexplained weight loss, tiredness or pain could suggest something is wrong. Visit Cancer Research for more information on Signs and symptoms of cancer.

Living with cancer

If you or someone you care for is living with cancer there is local support available through the Improving the Cancer Journey programme or contact us on 0141 232 8256

Other useful links: