Cancer screening tips

Find Cancer Early: Guidelines for screenings
Some cancers can be found early, before they have had a chance to grow and spread. The American Cancer Society recommends these screening guidelines for people who are at average risk for cancer. If you have an increased susceptibility to certain types of cancer because of your family’s medical history or other factors, you may need to follow a more aggressive screening schedule, such as starting at an earlier age or being screened more often. Talk to your doctor.

Breast Cancer

Screening recommendations:
• Women should have yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as they are in good health.
• Clinical breast exams should be part of periodic health exams, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 and older.
• Women should regularly perform breast self-exams and promptly report changes to their doctors. Self-exams contribute to women’s awareness but should not be relied upon to detect cancer.

Cervical Cancer
Screening recommendations:
• Women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old.
• An annual Pap test, or one every two years using the newer liquid-based Pap test, should be part of a woman’s health regimen.
• Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every two to three years.
• Women 70 or older who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having cervical cancer screenings. But women with a history of cervical cancer, exposure to DES (a synthetic form of estrogen once prescribed to pregnant women) before giving birth, HIV infection or a weakened immune system should continue these regular screenings for as long as they are in good health.

Prostate Cancer
Screening recommendations:
• Men should get both the prostate- specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination annually, beginning at age 50.
•Men at high risk (black men and men whose fathers or brothers were diagnosed before age 65) should begin testing at age 45.
• Men at even higher risk, who have multiple relatives affected at an early age, could begin testing at age 40. Depending on the results, no further testing might be needed until 45.

Colon and Rectal Cancer
Screening recommendations:
• Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of the following five testing schedules: yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT); flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; yearly FOBT or FIT, plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; double-contrast barium enema every five years; colonoscopy every 10 years.
• All positive tests should be followed up with colonoscopy. Some men may be candidates for “virtual” colonoscopy using an advanced CT scanner.

For more information, download a free quick-tips chart or go to

Melanoma Skin Cancer
Screening recommendations:
• Check your own skin about once a month. Know the pattern of moles, freckles and other marks so you can identify changes. Have friends or family members check hard-to-see areas such as your back.
• Ask your doctor to check suspicious moles and have them removed if needed. If you have many moles, you should get a careful exam from your doctor or a dermatologist, along with monthly skin self-exams.

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