While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, finding early signs can help doctors effectively treat the disease. Cancer screenings play an important role in this early detection, but the type of tests and screening schedule you have will depend on several important factors.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your cancer risk and the screening tests you need,” said Mridula Vinjamuri, MD, of AdventHealth Medical Group Hematology Oncology at Calhoun. “Having a plan in place can help keep you healthy and give you peace of mind.”
Find the Cancer Screening Schedule That’s Right for You
There’s no universal cancer screening regimen. Instead, your doctor will determine how often to screen for cancer, based on your:
- Family health history
- Genetic risks for cancer
- Personal health history
For Adolescents and Teens
Because childhood cancers are rare, doctors don’t typically recommend cancer screenings for children and teens. However, if a child has an inherited risk of developing cancer, doctors may recommend regular checkups and tests to look for signs of cancer.
For Adults Age 21 to 49
“While there are no set screening tests for young men, it is important to discuss your risk factors”. said Sonia Watley, MD, of AdventHealth Medical Group Family Medicine at Adairsville Health Park. “For young women, screening for both cervical and breast cancer are recommended.”
Starting at age 21, the National Cancer Institute recommends women get regular pelvic exams and Pap tests to check for early signs of cervical cancer every 2 to 3 years. These tests can also find early signs of other cancers of the female reproductive system (gynecologic cancer). Some women may need to start screening earlier or have more regular screenings if they have a higher cancer risk.
Breast cancer screening involves a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast tissue. There are many differing opinions on when to start breast cancer screening, and screening guidelines vary from organization to organization. However, the universal recommendation is that women begin annual mammograms at age 40.
It’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons of mammogram screening and the risks involved with these tests.
For Adults Over 50
When you reach age 50, many screenings are recommended for your protection, from screenings for reproductive to lung cancer.
Breast Cancer Screening
The U.S. Preventive Services task force recommends women ages 50 to 74 receive a mammogram every other year to screen for breast cancer. However, you may need more regular screening if you’re at a higher risk.
Colon Cancer Screening
“For older men and women, colonoscopies can find early signs of colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Vinjamuri. “They can also help stop the disease from developing altogether.”
The National Cancer Institute recommends regular colonoscopies for men and women ages 50 to 75. How often you undergo screenings will depend on your personal and family health history.
Prostate Cancer Screening
While there’s no standard screening guideline for prostate cancer, men age 50 and older should talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of screening and whether they should be tested for signs of prostate cancer.
Lung Cancer Screening
Although it’s a relatively recent practice, lung cancer screening has been shown to decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer in heavy smokers ages 55 to 74. Talk to your doctor about screening if you are, or have ever been, a smoker.
Schedule Your Cancer Screenings Today
“Don’t hesitate to speak with your primary care doctor about your concerns and questions about cancer screening and prevention,” said Dr. Watley. “Together, we can find the right test and schedule for you, so you can stay healthier for longer.”