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
21-29
Pap test Cervical Every 3 years
30-39
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
40-49
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
Mammography Breast Age 40-44: Can choose to have every year
50 plus
Pap test + HPV test Cervical Every 5 years (every 3 years if Pap test alone)
Mammography Breast Age 50-54: Every year

Age 55 plus: Every 2 years (can continue with every year)

Low-dose CT Lung Age 55 – 74, for current/past heavy smokers: Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor
One of the following: Colon
Colonoscopy Every 10 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy Every 5 years
Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) Every 5 years
Stool DNA Test (sDNA) Every 3 years
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) Every year
  adapted from American Cancer Society, 2015

 

Tests For Men

Age Test Cancer How often
45-49
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, with/without rectal exam Prostate  

African-American men and others at increased risk: Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor

50 plus
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, with/without rectal exam

 

Prostate  

Discuss potential benefit/harms with doctor

Low-dose CT Lung Age 55 – 74, for current/past heavy smokers: Discuss potential benefits/harms with doctor
One of the following: Colon  
Colonoscopy Every 10 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy Every 5 years
Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) Every 5 years
Stool DNA test (sDNA) Every 3 years
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) Every year
  adapted from American Cancer Society, 2015