Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. There are a number of national screening programmes in Scotland. Screening programmes are designed to detect early signs of a disease or condition and to provide referral and treatment where necessary. 

NHS Health Scotland works closely with NHS National Services Division and NHS Health Board Screening Co-ordinators to support professionals and the public with resources promoting informed choice within the national screening programmes.

  • Screening eligibility is based on age and gender
  • Screening invitations are sent to the patient’s address that is registered with their GP
  • AAA screening is for men aged 65 and is offered once
  • Cervical screening is for women aged 25 to 64 and is offered every three or five years depending on age
  • Breast screening is for women aged 50 to 70 and is offered every three years
  • Bowel screening is for men and women aged 50 to 74 and is offered every two years
  • Diabetic retinopathy screening is only for people with diabetes over the age of 12. It is offered every year
  • Pregnancy screening is offered to all pregnant women at various stages of their pregnancy
  • New born screening is offered to all new born babies within the first few weeks of life
  • You are 14 times more likely to survive bowel cancer if it's found early

Screening and health inequalities

Uptake of cancer screening (breast, bowel and cervical) is lower in more deprived areas. The 2016 Scottish Cancer Strategy 'Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action' sets out a clear commitment to reduce inequalities in cancer screening.

For more information on cancer incidence, mortality, deprivation and trends over time see Information Service Division's Cancer page (external).

NHS Health Scotland are committed to improving the reach of all the Scottish screening programmes. We aim to make all public information as accessible as possible and we facilitate opportunities for key stakeholders to work together to address the barriers to screening.

In 2017 NHS Health Scotland ran a screening and inequalities event. The can download a brochure and presentations from the event page.

Local and national action

We produce information for the public on each of the screening programmes. Information for the public is available on NHS Inform.

All our public information is available in Urdu, Chinese and Polish and in an easy-read format. We are happy to consider requests for other languages and formats by emailing nhs.healthscotland-alternativeformats@nhs.net.

The UK National Screening Committee

  • assesses evidence and makes recommendations for all the screening programmes
  • advises the UK Government and the NHS in the 4 UK countries all about aspects of screening
  • supports implementation of all screening programmes.

The Scottish Government launched the Detect Cancer Early programme (external) in 2012. This is a programme of work to improve survival for people with cancer by diagnosing and treating the disease at an early stage. Visit the Scottish Government Detect Cancer Early (external) website.

You can contact us with queries about our screening work.