NHS Scotland

Earlier the better

"The earlier we find cancer, the easier it is to treat"

If you are worried about any potential symptoms, or have noticed an unusual change in your body, the best thing to do is to visit your GP. It’s probably nothing to worry about but if it is cancer, the earlier it’s found, the better. When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is often easier and more likely to be effective. For example, 9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer when it’s diagnosed early. Today, more Scots are detecting cancer early, in fact 25.3% of all breast, lung and bowel cancers in 2016 and 2017 were detected at stage one (the earliest stage).  This is an increase of 8.4 per cent since 2010 and 2011.

In general, outcomes are much better these days. In fact, almost twice as many people survive cancer today compared to 20 years ago.* So, if you’re worried about any potential symptoms, your doctor wants to see you.

 *Source: ISD,  Cancer Survival in Scotland 1987-2011.

A specialist's view…

“Very often when someone is worried about cancer, it’s something they put to the back of their mind. Either because they don’t want to face it or are worried about wasting their doctor's time. However, timing is everything – the earlier a patient comes and sees me with their concerns, the quicker I can help them, which could save their life. If you notice a change in your health, any change, I want to see you. Whether you have unexpected bleeding, found a lump, altered bowel habits, weight loss, an unexplained pain or something else, make an appointment today. Sometimes those around you will notice changes to your health before you do, like a persistent cough. Don’t fob them off, follow it up. You’re not wasting my time, I’m here to listen and to help.”

Dr Paul Baughan, GP


Cancer screening

Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs of the disease. It can often find cancers at an early stage, or even prevent them, saving lives in the process.

In Scotland there are three national screening programmes

Breast screening

Cervical screening

Bowel screening

There is no screening programme for prostate cancer because the PSA test is not reliable enough, but men over 50 can ask their doctor about it. 

Benefits and risks of screening

Screening saves lives. However, no test is 100% accurate. There’s still the chance that cancers can be missed and there are other risks too. 

Your choice

Whether you choose to attend screening or not is up to you. Don't ignore your invite. You should read what's inside and make your decision. To find out more about the benefits and risks of screening visit NHS Inform.


Don't Get Scared, get Checked.