Cancer Screening Guidelines
Cancer screening tests are used to find cancer before a person has any symptoms or at an earlier stage when cancer might be easier to treat. Screening for all cancers varies based on risk. This should be individualized with the help of each patient’s physician.
Below, you’ll find the most current updates in regards to screening for various types of cancer.
- Age 40-44: Yearly breast cancer screenings with mammograms should begin if desired.
- Age 45-54: Mammography should be received every year.
- Age 55 and older: Mammograms can switch to every two years if desired, or continue with annual mammograms.
- Age 75 and older: If a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer, screening should continue.
The doctor may recommend screening at an earlier age and more often than the schedules listed above if the woman has an increased risk of developing breast cancer. In rare cases, a woman’s genetics may require an MRI to be performed along with a mammogram.
Adult women of all ages should familiarize themselves with their breasts by performing breast self-exams. Any changes should be reported to the doctor.
- Age 25: Cervical cancer screenings should begin. Women under the age of 25 are at low risk for developing cervical cancer.
- Age 25-65: A primary HPV (human papillomavirus) test is recommended every 5 years. If a primary HPV test is not available, suitable options are a co-test (an HPV test with a Pap test) every 5 years, or a Pap test every 3 years.
Women who have received an HPV vaccination should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
Women over the age of 65 should not be tested for cervical cancer if they have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results (15 years of mostly negative results for women who have had a hysterectomy). Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. Individual cases where a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer is present should continue to be tested for at least 25 years after that diagnosis, even if testing goes past age 65.
Colon and Rectal (Colorectal) Cancer
- Age 45: Screening should begin for those who are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of screening test might be right for you.
- Age 46-75: Regular screening should continue for those in good health.
- Age 76-85: Factors including past screening history, personal health, and doctor recommendation will determine if continued screening is necessary.
People who are at an increased or high risk for colorectal cancer might need screening before the age of 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests.
Screening for colorectal cancer is not recommended for people over the age of 85.
Low-dose CT (LDCT) scans are recommended for people aged 50-80 if they:
- Are in good health,
- Currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years,
- Have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history, meaning the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked
In addition to screening, the patient should receive smoking cessation counseling and learn about the possible benefits, harms, and limits of LDCT scans from their doctor.
Screening is recommended for men with an average risk of prostate cancer, at
- Age 50: Men should discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer testing to determine if testing is right for them.
- Age 70 and older: Men over age 70 or with less than 10 to 15 years of life expectancy should not be screened for prostate cancer routinely.
Men who are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer might need to begin early screening per the request of their doctor. For high-risk men, 40 is the recommended age to consult with your doctor about screening for prostate cancer. This includes men who have a father or brother who had prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65) or men with a genetic predisposition for prostate cancer (like BRCA1/2 positive, or other genes).
Early Detection for Other Cancers
While there are no official screening guidelines for the following cancers, these tips can help with early detection.
Skin Cancer and Melanoma
Familiarizing yourself with your own skin and performing regular self-examinations can help find skin cancer early when the disease is more likely to be cured. Self-examinations should be performed in front of a full-length mirror in a brightly lit room. Look for changes in moles, freckles, and blemishes. See if another person can check your scalp and back of the neck. Have your doctor check your skin as part of your annual exam, especially if you have a higher risk for skin cancer.
Early signs of bladder cancer often include blood in the urine (called hematuria), pain, and changes in bladder habits. Many times these symptoms are due to less serious causes, but it’s a good idea to be checked by a doctor.
Two tests may be used to screen for bladder cancer in patients who have had bladder cancer in the past. These include cystoscopy and urine cytology.
Self-exams of your mouth and regular dental screenings, especially for smokers or heavy drinkers, can help detect white patches (leukoplakia) and red patches (erythroplakia), as well as sores or lumps which could be signs of cancer.
If lesions are seen in the mouth, your doctor may recommend additional procedures to look for abnormal tissue that might become oral cavity cancer.
Women should be made aware of the risk factors and symptoms of endometrial cancer at the time of menopause. Any unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting should be reported to the doctor. Based on family history, some women might need to have an annual biopsy done. Consult with your doctor about your family health history or if you notice any unexpected vaginal bleeding, as they may recommend beginning a yearly biopsy to check for endometrial cancer.
Men can perform monthly self-exams of the testicles to look for lumps or changes in size. Your doctor might also recommend a testicular exam during a routine checkup. If a lump is found in the testicle by the patient or during a routine physical exam, tests may be done to check for cancer.
Kidney and Liver Cancer
Talk to your doctor to see if you have a higher than average risk for these diseases. If so, he or she might recommend further testing.