Health Promotion Newsletter

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I write this at the start of 2024.  Many of us choose this time of year to kickstart new habits and make positive changes. As a practice, we are keen to focus on health promotion – trying to prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place, or catching them at an early stage when the disease process can be halted or even reversed. 

To that end, there are many opportunities available for us all to optimise our health. This month’s newsletter is focussing on locally availably free NHS cancer screening programmes. It is very important to note that screening programmes are only designed to detect problems in patients who do not have any symptoms to indicate an underlying cancer – if you do have symptoms please see your GP. 

Cervical Screening

Regular smear tests can pick up abnormal changes early; these can be treated to prevent cervical cancer from actually developing. The test involves a quick internal examination by an experienced nurse. The NHS invites women aged 25 – 49 every 3 years, and women aged 50 – 64 every 5 years. 

Our practice nurses carry out smear tests with some appointments available in the evenings and at weekends. If you have received an NHS invitation indicating that you are due for a smear test you can visit website to book an appointment, or contact Reception to book in.  

Seeing Bobby Brazier dance on Strictly Come Dancing in memory of his late mother Jade Goody was a poignant reminder that cervical cancer is a condition to be considered seriously, and that smears are an excellent way to protect ourselves.

Bowel Screening 

Carrying out a quick stick test at home on a poo sample can reveal microscopic blood, which is an early sign of bowel cancer. The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is an accurate way of detecting the disease in its very early stages, when it is often curable. Tests are available to anyone aged 60 – 74 (currently being expanded to cover ages 50 – 59). If you have mislaid your test kit, or have not received one despite being eligible, the free bowel cancer screening helpline can send you another kit – just call 0800 707 6060.

Breast Screening

This Xray test is offered at 3 yearly intervals to women aged 50 – 70. The purpose is to detect very small breast cancers, at which stage treatment is often much more effective than when they become a palpable lump. The screening programme invites patients by GP practice, so the first invitation will be before your 53rd birthday.  Women over age 70 can request breast screening by telephoning 0115 993 6649.

Prostate Cancer 

At the present time, there is no over-arching prostate cancer screening programme, as there are not sufficiently reliable tests to use. However, a blood test can provide useful information – our Reception team can send you some further information if you would like to request an appointment. We would particularly like to offer those at higher risk a blood test (men over 50; men over age 45 with a family history of prostate cancer; black men over 45)

Next month I will look at other forms of health promotion which are available locally. 

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year,

Dr Caroline Wight on behalf of The Calverton Practice