Screening aims to find serious medical conditions and illnesses early, before you get any symptoms. For the conditions that we screen for in Scotland, then it is generally better to find them early on because they are easier to treat and less likely to cause severe illness. Regular screening can reduce the number of deaths from particular conditions.

We can't and don't screen for all conditions and illnesses. There may be no good test that can be used to detect the condition early or there may be no benefit in identifying it early. Screening programmes are usually offered to specific groups in the population who are at risk of the condition and where there would be the most benefit from screening. Screening programmes are often for certain age groups, or just for women or men.

Screening tests are not compulsory. Screening is offered to help you make an informed choice about your health, or the health or your child.

There are a number of national NHS population based screening programmes offered in Scotland. Currently these are:

  • Pregnancy screening for Mums (and Dads) to be
  • Newborn screening for all newborn babies
  • Diabetic Retinopathy screening for all people with diabetes aged 12 and over
  • Cervical cancer screening for all women aged 20-60
  • Breast cancer screening for women aged 50-70
  • Bowel cancer screening for men and women aged 50-74
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening for men at age 65

There are also selective screening programmes for people who are at an increased risk of certain conditions due to a family history, or previous medical history for example.

The screening programmes are all delivered in Shetland, although each one is done in a different way: pregnancy and newborn screening is done by the maternity department in conjunction with GPs; diabetic retinopathy screening is done in Out Patients; cervical cancer screening is done in GP practices; breast cancer screening is done in a mobile unit that comes to Shetland every three years; bowel cancer screening involves a test done at home, followed by tests at the Gilbert Bain if required; AAA screening is done by the local ultrasound scanning team in the X ray department or at the Lerwick Health Centre.

Where to get information and advice

  • Contact your GP, midwife, health visitor or practice nurse.
  • Go to the NHS Inform
  • Contact the NHS Shetland Screening Co-ordinator