According to statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013 – and more than 500,000 lives are expected to be lost to the deadly disease this year alone. Many of these deaths can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and by undergoing regular screening tests for certain types of cancers.
Following are some recommendations from the ACS for when to start getting screened for cancer:
- Breast self-examination: This type of exam involves checking the breasts regularly to help detect problems or changes. It is recommended for women over the age of 20, but not required.
- Clinical breast examination: It is recommended that this type of exam be performed by a healthcare provider at least once every three years for women in their 20s and 30s.
- Mammography: Women over the age of 40 should have one done each year.
Cervical cancer screenings for women should begin at the age of 21 and can be done every three years with a regular Pap test. Between 30 and 65, tests can be done every five years with both the HPV and Pap tests, or every three years with just the Pap. Depending on different factors, women may be able to stop screening for cervical cancer after 65.
There are different tests that can be performed to screen for colorectal cancer (from a fecal occult blood test to colonoscopy); however, it isn’t necessary for men or women to start getting tested until the age of 50. How often screenings occur, depends on the type of test and recommendations from your doctor.
Past and current smokers ages 55 to 74 with at least a 30 pack-year history can undergo a low dose helical CT test to screen for cancer after being informed by their physician of potential harms and limitations. The ACS recommends smoking cessation as the foremost form of lung cancer prevention.
Men over the age of 50 should talk to their healthcare provider about prostate cancer screenings such as rectal exams and PSA blood tests, including benefits and potential risks. African-American men and those with a strong family history of prostate cancer should have a discussion with their doctor at 45.
For specific questions or concerns about the different cancers and their related screening methods, talk to your doctor.