At present, only screening for cervical cancer and breast cancer is generally available on the NHS, and then only for certain age-groups. Lee Rodwell outlines what is currently on offer.

Cervical screening: Some experts think women should start having cervical smear tests within a year of becoming sexually active, and, ideally, every year after that. On the NHS, women aged 20-64 are invited to attend for screening and recalled every three to five years. Older women can be screened on request. A private Well Woman check at Marie Stopes, including a smear test, costs pounds 57.

Breast screening: Women aged between 50 and 64 are invited for mammograms at three-yearly intervals. Older women may request screening and it is argued that the recall system should be extended to include them. Some experts also feel that screening every three years allows too long an interval. BUPA charges pounds 85 for a breast screen, which includes a mammogram.

Genetic testing: Researchers have discovered two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The NHS is still evaluating the benefits of a genetic test, but this is being offered in a few centres to some high-risk women.

Screening for ovarian cancer: GPs can refer high risk women to a cancer specialist or clinic which can provide counselling, and assess their degree of risk and need for screening. Women with a close family history of ovarian cancer may be offered blood tests and ultrasound scans annually.

Bowel cancer screening: Moves are afoot to introduce screening. Trials have shown that testing for blood in faeces can detect colorectal cancers.

Prostate cancer screening: The Department of Health has decided not to screen for prostate cancer. This can be done by rectal examination and testing blood for prostate specific antigen (PSA). At Marie Stopes clinics a Well Man Plus screen, which includes a PSA test, costs pounds 75 but it should be possible to find a private doctor to do this for about pounds 20 to pounds 30.