When Should Screenings Start?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends these cancer- screening guidelines. Ask your doctor if you should begin any of these tests earlier based on your or your family’s medical history. 

Breast Cancer 

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast-cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms yearly.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and should report any breast changes to their doctor right away. Some women, because of family history, a genetic tendency or other factors, should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. Talk with your doctor about the best screening plan for you.

Colon and Rectal Cancer and Polyps

Starting at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing plans:

Tests that find polyps and cancer:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*

Tests that mostly find cancer:

  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)**
  • Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years*

*If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
** The multiple-stool take-home test should be used. One test done in the office is not enough. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

If you are at high risk of colon cancer based on family history or other factors, you may need to follow a different schedule.

Prostate Cancer

Starting at age 50, men should talk with a doctor about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is the right choice for them. If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your doctor starting at age 45.

If you decide to be tested, you should get a PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often you’re tested will depend on your PSA level.

For more on what you can do to help reduce your cancer risk visit www.cancer.org or call 1-800- 227-2345.

Source: American Cancer Society