Physical health checks are paramount if you are feeling unwell or notice something different about your body.

Screening and regular check-ups can detect diseases earlier when they can be easier to treat. Therefore, if appointments are during work time try to prioritise attending these appointments. 

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with around 55,500 women and 370 men diagnosed each year. It occurs when abnormal cells in the breast uncontrollably grow and divide forming a tumour (Cancer Research UK, 2021). Currently, breast cancer risk in transgender people isn’t yet fully understood but there is ongoing research (Bupa, 2021).

Early detection of breast cancer provides a good chance of recovery, therefore understanding symptoms and checking your breasts is regularly is important. Cancer Research provides breast symptoms to look out for:

  • a new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
  • a change in size, shape or feel of your breast
  • skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
  • fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding
  • changes in the position of the nipple

Most breast lumps are not cancerous but it’s advised that you should see your GP if you notice any of these symptoms (NHS, 2019).

Be breast aware

Regularly checking your breasts helps you be familiar with what is normal for you, to be able to identify any changes early on. When checking your breast, take notice of the size, shape and consistency. Your breasts can change during your menstrual cycle. Therefore, get used to how your breast feels different during the month. Also, menopause and your menstrual period cycle can affect how your breasts looks and feel. It’s important to know that there is no right way to check your breast and every woman’s breast is different.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a 5-point plan for being breast aware:

  • know what's normal for you

  • look at your breasts and feel them

  • know what changes to look for

  • report any changes to a GP without delay

  • attend a routine screening if you're aged 50 to 70

Watch this video animation provides a step–by–step guide for checking your breasts:

Breast screening/mammograms

Breast screening is available for women between the ages of 50 and 70, it is also available for some trans or non-binary people. This screening provides early detection through an x-ray of your breast (Cancer Research, 2020). You may be invited for a breast screening if you are under 50 with a higher-than-the normal risk of developing breast cancer. This may be due to a genetic predisposition or family history. Speak to your GP if this is the case and they can support you through this (Bupa, 2022). It is important to continue to check your breast even if you go for regular screening.

Cancer research

Cancer research has loads information around cancer you can read and download.

NHS website

Visit the NHS website for general NHS advice and signposting links.

Breast cancer UK

Visit Breast Cancer UK have simple guide for everyone and has top five tips to help reduce your risk of breast cancer.

For females in the UK, cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer, around 3,200 women get diagnosed a year. Cervical cancer occurs when an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells happens in the lining of the cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and the womb (Cancer Research, 2020 & NHS, 2021).

The main cause of Cervical cancer is from a long-lasting infection from a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV) (NHS, 2021). HPV is a common infection that the immune system usually clears without any problems.

This cancer is most common in women in their early 30s and it can develop in trans men if they haven’t had an operation to remove their womb and cervix (total hysterectomy) (Cancer Research, 2020).

You may not have any symptoms of cervical cancer, but if you do they may include:

  • having heavier periods than you usually do
  • bleeding in between your periods, during or after sex, or after the menopause
  • painful sex
  • a change to your discharge, for example, an unpleasant smell, change of colour or consistency
  • pain in your lower back or between your hipbones (pelvis)

Conditions like fibroids or endometriosis may result in a regular occurrence of these symptoms. Also, these symptoms are very common and can be caused by various conditions. Therefore, having them does not mean that you definitely have cervical cancer. However, it’s important to speak to your GP if you notice any symptom changes or it does not feel normal to you (NHS, 2021).

Going for your cervical screening/smear test

The NHS invites women aged between 25-64 for cervical screening. Cervical screening also applies to trans men in this age range who have a cervix. In England, you are invited for screening every three years if you are between the ages of 25-49. After this, it will be every five years until the age of 64 (Cancer Research, 2020).

Cervical screening is a prevention method that tests for the HPV virus, as a high risk of HPV can cause cervical cells to become cancerous. You can contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening but have not received an invitation.

This NHS video explains what to expect during your cervical screening:

NHS website

Visit the NHS website for more information on cervical cancer and what to expect during a cervical screening/smear test.

Cancer research

The Cancer research website has lots of useful signposting links you can access for free. 

Jo Cervical Cancer Trust

The Jo Cervical Cancer Trust charity has a helpline that offers support with questions about cervical cancer, cervical screening results or if you are trying to come to terms with a recent diagnosis

Ovarian cancer affects the two small organs (ovaries) that store the eggs needed to make babies. Anyone with ovaries can get ovarian cancer, but it mostly affects those over 50. The symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as bloating, are not always obvious. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late, but early diagnosis can mean it is more treatable.

Main symptoms of ovarian cancerOvarian-cancer-infographic.png

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include frequently (roughly 12 or more times a month) having:

  • a swollen tummy or feeling bloated
  • pain or tenderness in your tummy or the area between the hips (pelvis)
  • no appetite or feeling full quickly after eating
  • an urgent need to pee or needing to pee more often

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • indigestion
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • back pain
  • feeling tired all the time
  • losing weight without trying
  • bleeding from the vagina after the menopause

The NHS website has listed information on the common causes of ovarian cancer and how to lower your risk. You can be tested for ovarian cancer, and once you receive back your results, you will be informed of next steps. 

If you're told you have ovarian cancer

Being told you have ovarian cancer can feel overwhelming. You may be feeling anxious about what will happen next. It can help to bring someone with you to any appointments you have.

Macmillan Cancer Support has a free helpline that's open every day from 8am to 8pm. They're there to listen if you have anything you want to talk about. Call 0808 808 00 00.

Treatment for ovarian cancer

Treatment for ovarian cancer will depend on:

  • the size and type of ovarian cancer you have
  • where the cancer is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

The main treatments are surgery and chemotherapy. Other treatments include targeted medicines and hormone treatments. 

You and your loved ones will be supported throughout your ovarian cancer treatment by a group of specialists.

The clinical nurse specialist, or another member of your specialist team will be able to give you information on local support services that you may find helpful. There are also national cancer charities that offer support and information about ovarian cancer.

Talk to us

At Keeping Well NWL, we understand how physical health can impact your mental health. We are here to support you by providing a safe and confidential space to talk about what is going on for you.

We can also help think with you about how you might want to access support and make onward referrals if needed.