Skip to toolbar

ScreeningWhat is a screening test?                                           

The purpose of any type of screening test is to see if someone has signs of a disease so that it can be treated as soon as possible when it is very small. This usually means a better chance of survival. The important difference between screening and a diagnostic test is that screening is carried out on people who don’t have any signs of the disease in the first place. There are some really useful little videos about screening and what terms like ‘false positive’ and ‘false negative’ mean in the Public Health England population screening page

Why isn’t everybody screened?

It isn’t possible to screen the whole of the population for every disease. This would be too inefficient. Programmes are therefore targeted to a group of people where the disease is more likely to occur.

So having a mammogram will prevent me getting cancer – is that right?

No, neither screenings nor symptomatic diagnostic tests will ‘prevent’ cancer. They are designed to identify and then diagnose if a cancer is present – that is all. There is currently no known method for ‘preventing’ breast cancer although research is attempting to answer this question. For more information on risks and prevention please refer to