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We hope your lifelong health journey never includes a cancer diagnosis. But it’s important to remember that detecting cancer early gives you your best chance at surviving and thriving. Keeping up with doctor-recommended preventive screenings is key to catching potential issues before they become bigger problems.
The following screening guidelines are for people who have an average risk for cancer. If you have an increased risk — due to your family history, for instance — you may need to be screened at an earlier age or more often. Talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends people with an average risk for colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45, while the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises beginning screening at age 50. Talk with your doctor about the screening schedule that works best for you. If you have an increased risk for colorectal cancer, you may need to get tested at an earlier age. Ask your doctor which test you should have:
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Double contrast barium enema every five years
- Fecal immunochemical test annually
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test annually
- Stool DNA test every three years
Yearly mammograms are recommended for women ages 45 to 54, then every other year for women ages 55 and older. Women with a heightened breast cancer risk should ask their doctors about the risks and benefits of an annual MRI and mammogram.
The USPSTF recommends women ages 21 to 29 get a Pap test once every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 years can choose to have a Pap test every three years, an HPV test once every five years, or a Pap test and an HPV test once every five years. Women older than 65 who have had normal screenings and do not have a high risk for cervical cancer do not need to be screened.
After menopause, women who have bleeding or spotting should tell their doctors, who may order screenings for endometrial cancer.
The USPSTF recommends men ages 55 to 69 talk with their doctors about the pros and cons of PSA screening. For men ages 70 and older, the USPSTF advises against screening. Recommendations from other organizations, including the ACS, differ slightly. However, all organizations agree that men should discuss the potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening with their physicians and make informed decisions.
Whatever your age or medical history, maintaining a relationship with a primary care provider will help keep track of your long-term health. To find a provider near you, use our convenient online physician finder.