If you are concerned about your health and cancer risk, you may wonder which screenings are right for you and when you should have them. Getting screened for cancer increases your chances of finding cancer early, when you will have more treatment options and the best chance of a positive outcome.
If you are age 20 or older, a cancer-related check-up can be part of your regular health exam with your doctor. It should include health counseling and (depending on your age and gender) exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes and ovaries.
It’s important to recognize that published cancer screening guidelines are just that: guidelines. Your physician knows you best and should help you determine which cancer screening tests may be important for you given your age, gender, lifestyle and family and medical history.
Current Cancer Screening Recommendations
Here are the latest recommendations for the most common types of cancer. Be sure to check with your doctor about screenings that are right for you. Need a doctor? We can help. Call 1-800-DOCTORS.
Breast Cancer Screening
Women at average risk of developing breast cancer should get a screening mammogram each year, beginning at age 40. If you have certain risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, talk with your doctor about screening and the best way to manage your risk. Learn more about breast cancer screening.
Prostate Cancer Screening
The American Cancer Society recommends men who are at average risk of prostate cancer begin a conversation with their doctor at age 50 about whether and when prostate cancer screening is right for them. African American men are at higher risk at a younger age and should start the conversation earlier. Learn more about prostate cancer screening.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Men and women who have average risk of developing colorectal cancer should have their first colonoscopy at age 50. Talk with your primary care doctor to determine when screening should begin for you, the appropriate interval between tests, and which screening test is most suitable. Learn more about colorectal cancer screening.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Talk with your doctor about screening with a PAP test and your personal risk factors for cervical cancer. Women at average risk of developing cervical cancer screening should begin having PAP tests at age 21. Learn more about cervical cancer screening.
Lung Cancer Screening
Lung cancer screening is not recommended for people who are at average risk. To be eligible for lung cancer screening using an annual low-dose CT scan of the chest, you must have certain high-risk factors, and you must be evaluated and discuss screening with your physician. Learn more about lung cancer screening.
Skin Cancer Screening
Regular exams by your doctor — and checking your own skin frequently — can help find skin cancer early when it is easier to treat with a better outcome. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. Talk with your doctor about your own risk. Learn more about skin cancer screening.
Head and Neck Cancer Screening
Head and neck cancers are seen more often in men and women older than age 50, but they can happen to younger people, too. Alcohol and tobacco use are two of the most significant risk factors for developing head and neck cancer. If you have any unusual symptoms, get checked by your doctor right away. Some of the early warning signs include:
- A sore in your mouth that does not heal
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue
- Change in your voice
- A lump in your neck
- Persistent sore throat
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