Cancer Screening Recommendations

Unfortunately most cancers can not be prevented. Therefore the best way to treat and potentially cure cancer is to find it in its earliest stages. Paying attention to family history and adopting a healthy lifestyle are important to helping to reduce the risk of some cancers.

Certain screening tests are recommended to help either prevent cancer or help detect cancers at earlier stages. These recommendations are only guidelines and are based on studies of patients with average risk. If you have a family history or some other circumstance that may potentially increase your risk for cancer, please speak with your doctor about a more personalized cancer screening program.

Breast Cancer

For women at average risk, a combination of self-breast examination, annual breast examination by your physician and annual mammograms is recommended for breast cancer screening. The following is a recommendation:

  • Monthly self-breast examination beginning at age 20

  • Annual breast examination by a physician beginning at age 25

  • Baseline mammogram at age 35

  • Annual mammogram at age 40

Women with a family history of breast cancer should have physician examinations at least every 6 months and annual mammograms starting at least 10 years before the youngest family member with breast cancer.

Cervical Cancer

Pap smears should begin at age 18 or when a female becomes sexually active, whichever is earlier. Annual pelvic exam with Pap smear should be performed unless there is a family history or a previous abnormality.

For women who have had a hysterectomy for non-cancerous disease, annual pelvic exam with a Pap smear every other year is recommended.

High risk women, including women with a diagnosis of abnormal vaginal or cervical tissue in the past 3 years, a women over the age of 50 who has not had a Pap smear in greater than 3 years, women with a compromised immune system (including transplant patients) and women who are HIV-positive, should get pelvic exams and Pap smears twice a year.

Prostate Cancer

Men of average risk should have an annual digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood testing yearly starting at age 50. African-American men and men with a first-degree relative with a history of prostate cancer should start annual screening at age 40.

Skin Cancer

People of average risk should begin clinical skin evaluation at age 50. If there is a family history of a first-degree relative or any two or more blood relatives with a history of melanoma, screening should begin 15 years earlier than the youngest relative with melanoma or at age 25, whichever is earlier. Follow-up should be based on the complexity of the examination and risk factors. Patients with many moles may consider taking pictures of their moles ever 6 months to be able to detect small changes.

Colon Cancer

For patients at average risk (no personal or family history of colon cancer or abnormal polyps and no personal history of inflammatory bowel disease) and without any symptoms, colon screening should begin at age 50. Colonoscopy every 5 – 10 years is recommended.

Patients with a family history of colorectal cancer should undergo colonoscopy every five years beginning at age 40 or 10 years younger than the youngest relative with a history of colorectal cancer, whichever is earlier.

The content on this site is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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