Prevention

Screening

Cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools we have to protect against cancer.  Not only can screening tests find cancer early when it’s more treatable, it can also help prevent some cancers by finding and treating early abnormal changes in cells before they have a chance to turn into cancer.

Although there isn’t a screening test for every cancer, there are a number of effective tests that people should begin to have at certain ages. There are good tests for cervical cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

For colon cancer alone, regular screening could save over 30,000 lives each year. That’s nearly three times the number of people killed by drunk drivers annually in the United States. Add to this the potential lives saved from cervical, breast cancer, and lung cancer screening tests, and it’s hard to ignore the power and importance of regular testing.

Use the general guide below to talk with your doctor about your health and possible screening choices. Together you can determine which tests may be right for you and how often you should have them.  In addition to the tests generally laid out below, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that doctors perform occasional exams for signs of cancer of the thyroid, testicles, ovaries, lymph nodes, oral cavity, and skin. For details on ACS screening recommendations, click here.

Adults born between 1945 and 1965 should also talk to a doctor about getting a one-time blood test for hepatitis C.  Hepatitis C infection is more common in this age group than others and can increase the risk of liver damage and liver cancer.  For details on this recommendation, click here.

 

Tests For Women

Age Test Cancer How often
20-29
Pap test Cervical Every 3 years
Clinical Breast Exam Breast At least every 3 years
Breast Self-Exam Breast OK to do regularly, once in a while, or not all
30-39
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
Clinical Breast Exam Breast At least every 3 years
Breast Self-Exam Breast OK to do regularly, once in a while, or not all
40-49
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
Clinical Breast Exam Breast Every year
Mammography Breast Every year
Breast Self-Exam Breast OK to do regularly, once in a while, or not all
50 plus
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
Clinical Breast Exam Breast Every year
Mammography Breast Every year
Breast Self-Exam

 

Breast

 

OK to do regularly, once in a while, or not all
Low-dose CT Lung Only for current/past heavy smokers, aged 55 – 74 years: Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor
One of the following:

Colonoscopy

or

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

(can be done along with annual FOBT/FIT)

or

Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography)

or

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

 

Colon  

Every 10 years

or

Every 5 years

 

 

or

Every 5 years

 

 

or

Every year

  adapted from American Cancer Society, 2014

 

Tests For Men

Age Test Cancer How often
45-49
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, Digital rectal exam Prostate For African-American men and others at increased risk:

Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor

50 plus
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, Digital rectal exam

 

Prostate For all men:

Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor

Low-dose CT Lung Only for current/past heavy smokers, aged 55 – 74 years: Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor
 
One of the following:

Colonoscopy

or

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

(can be done along with annual FOBT/FIT)

or

Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography)

or

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

 

Colon  

Every 10 years

or

Every 5 years

 

 

or

Every 5 years

 

 

or

Every year

  adapted from American Cancer Society, 2014