Cancer Checks Worth Booking For Peace Of Mind
Cancer Checks Worth Booking For Peace Of Mind

Cancer Checks Worth Booking For Peace Of Mind

The very idea of a cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, but with some due diligence and an awareness of your body, you can stay on top of the risks. We spoke to the experts to find out which checks you can be doing at home, and when to seek professional help.
By Georgia Day

What are some basic at-home checks that everyone can do?

While it’s important to keep on top of all scheduled, professional screenings such as clinical breast exams and cervical screenings, there are checks we can all do at home to increase our understanding of our bodies and what’s normal for us. “Over and above the most common cancer checks at home (breast, mole and colon) it is important not to forget the additional cancers we can check for ourselves,” says Dr Sabine Donnai, leading preventative medicine expert and founder of Viavi. “General symptoms that should be investigated are unexplained weight loss, heavy night sweats (not related to menopause), loss of appetite, abnormal vaginal bleeding, unexplained hoarseness (throat cancer), difficulty swallowing, continuous unexplained dry cough or coughing of blood.” 

Your GP should always be your first port of call if you notice any unusual, unexplained or worrying new lumps, but being able to self-examine and know what changes you’re looking for is hugely important, especially in some cancers. “Tumours that can sometimes be detected by self-examination are testicular cancer (an enlarged testicle, lump on the testicle, weight change of one testicle) mouth or lip cancer (characterised by white patches in the mouth or lip that are not removable with wiping or brushing) and lymphomas (enlarged painless lymph nodes that are easiest to feel in the neck or in the armpit),” adds Sabine.

Who should be more cautious about regular checks?

It’s important to be aware of your body so that you understand what’s normal for you. For that reason, regular checks of your breasts, moles and stools are important for everyone. That said, if you have a family history of any cancer – that’s more than two first-degree family members, i.e. a parent, sibling or child – you might be more predisposed to the disease, so you need to remain particularly vigilant and aware of any symptoms or changes in your normal. “That said, not all cancers have a strong genetic factor,” says Sabine, “but colon, breast, prostate, ovarian, pancreas, stomach and skin cancers (melanoma) do have a stronger genetic predisposition.”

What enhanced checks are there for breast cancer?

If you are concerned about your breast cancer risk, there are numerous online checks that can be done which offer statistical advice and screening options. “The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment tool [also known as the Gail Model] is a statistical model that allows healthcare professionals to calculate the probability of a woman developing breast cancer over the course of her lifetime,” explains Dr Ruth Oratz, breast medical oncologist at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Centre and clinical professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “It provides the probability or chance of breast cancer within the next five years as well as up to age 90, and takes into consideration the woman's age, family history, whether any first or second-degree relatives have had breast cancer, whether or not she has had a prior breast biopsy and also information about reproductive history including age of first menstrual period and pregnancy.” It can be done online and can be a good first step option, but there are also more in-depth tools like the IBIS Breast Cancer Evaluation Tool or the Boadicea model which take into account more extensive personal details to offer a more enhanced risk assessment. If you’re interested in either, it’s best to speak to your GP first.

What other cancers should we be checking for?

Bowel cancer (cancer that is found anywhere in the large bowel including the colon and rectum) is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Although predominantly a cancer found in older people, with almost nine out of ten people diagnosed over the age of 60, rates among younger people are rising with more than 2,600 people under 50 diagnosed with it every year in the UK. Whatever your age, it’s vital to keep an eye on your bowel health and any changes in your bowel habits, because if it’s caught early, there is a greater than 90% chance of beating it. OneWelbeck’s Digestive Health unit is a specialist centre set up to increase education and awareness specifically around bowel screening, encouraging screening from the age of 40-45 to support early stage and preventative action. 

If you’re one of the third of UK women that don’t opt into your NHS cervical screening, there are other ways you can stay on top of your cervical health while you summon the courage to book in for the potentially life-saving screening. “Cervical cancer is linked to the HPV virus and a home self-vaginal swab test is now available that can detect the virus,” says Sabine, “so don’t wait until your cervical smear becomes abnormal.” Currently the NHS only offers routine screenings for breast, bowel and cervical cancers, although in some areas of England it also offers Lung Health Checks for high-risk individuals.

If you’re not high risk for cancers but you’re still concerned, there are private medical screens available to book. BUPA Healthcare offers comprehensive blood tests as well as follow-up appointments with specialists, while HCA Healthcare offers liver screening in addition to its programme of breast, colorectal and lung checks.

What does the future of cancer detection look like? 

Cancer research is constantly working on advancing detection to speed up diagnosis and cancer treatment. From a stool test that checks for DNA fragments of colon cancer to targeted DNA checks that can check a person’s genes for redisposition for certain cancers, the future is undoubtedly promising. “One of the most exciting new investigations is a blood test that checks for early signs of 70 different cancers,” says Sabine. “This will allow us to pick up cancers early on and often before they become a solid tumour. This test is currently only available in certain private clinics, but the NHS is running a trial on a similar test (checks for 50 cancers) at present.”

How can we remain vigilant without panicking?

“I would say just have a healthy awareness and listen to your body,” says Sabine. “Most of the times you know when something is not right, so there’s no need to become a hypochondriac or live in fear. Live a sensible, healthy lifestyle and have an awareness if something changes and there is no good explanation as to why. That’s when to check it out.” 

The Tests & Screenings To Note...

Best For A Full-Body MOT:
The London General Practice

Given we know most illnesses – from cancers to diabetes – have better outcomes when caught early, the comprehensive screenings on offer at The London General Practice will put your mind at ease, especially if you’re anxious when it comes to your health. The Advanced Health Screening is the medical assessment to know, and includes every test you could possibly think of, from blood tests to MRIs. The Essential Health Plus test is a more affordable option. Even if your tests come back clear, they promise to be useful, offering lifestyle suggestions so you can better look after your body in the long run.


Best For Breast, Bladder & Ovarian Checks:
Coyne Medical

At Coyne Medical you can opt for a simple blood test that will screen you for harmful changes in 51 genes that are linked to common cancers. That includes of the digestive tract (bowel, stomach and pancreas), kidneys, bladder, breast, ovary and prostate. Your results come with recommendations on how you can reduce your risk. They might also recommend a colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer or MRI screening to prevent breast cancer should your results suggest they are needed. Its team of doctors will also provide lifestyle advice to further improve your health. How does the test work? When cancer is in your body, it sheds tiny cells into the bloodstream, known as circulating tumour cells. These cells are the main reason cancer eventually spreads in the body, and this blood test can detect both the presence of these cells and where they are located. If your test comes back positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but that you’re at a high risk for cancer. The information it provides can also guide further testing, which can be particularly useful for cancers that aren't often screened as routinely among under 50's, like breast cancer. 

To book a health screening at Coyne Medical or to find out more, visit

Best For Bowel Care:

This home screening programme detects changes in the bowel earlier and more accurately than the standard ‘FIT’ test offered on the NHS, which is only offered once you reach the age of 60. Studies show it can spot signs of bowel cancer before any symptoms or bleeding occurs, offering superior early detection compared to faecal blood tests. ColoAlert detects 85% of colorectal cancers, and often in the very early stages of the disease.


Best For Mole Mapping:
The Cadogan Clinic

Keeping a regular check on your skin is vital – especially as melanomas are one of the most common types of cancers in young adults aged 15-34. Early detection and intervention are imperative as it can result in a cure. If you have moles, it’s always worth getting tested, but if you notice any obvious irregularities in shape, size, colour or texture, book a check-up with your GP or a private clinic like The Cadogan. The latter offer a comprehensive mole check and it’s the only one of its kind approved by the British Skin Foundation. You’ll be seen by a consultant dermatologist, who will digitally map your entire body with a special tool designed to detect the subtlest changes in the number of moles. Any mole that your dermatologist is concerned about will be examined on the spot under a high-powered microscope and a digital image taken to enable monitoring and early detection of any change.


Best For Vaginal Health:

More and more studies show it’s not just your gut microbiome that plays a part in your overall health – the bacteria in your vagina also play a part. The world’s first tampon-based, at-home vaginal health screening kit, Daye’s game-changing test will tell you if you have a vaginal infection like thrush or bacterial vaginosis (BV), and also if your microbiome is disrupted, which could put you more at risk of STIs, infections, gynaecological cancers, and fertility and IVF complications. Once you have your results, you’ll be able to speak to a Daye doctor for medication and supplement advice.


DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme. 

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