In addition to the normal tests performed during a physical, the American Cancer Society recommends getting screened for cancer at specific intervals. The following is a summary of recommendations for low-risk patients. As always, discuss your risk factors and options with your doctor and follow his or her advice.
Breast Cancer Screenings
• Beginning at age 20, have a clinical breast exam every three years for women until age 39, then annually after age 40.
• Begin monthly breast self-examinations at age 20.
• After age 40, have an annual mammogram.
Cervical Cancer Screenings
• Get a pap test annually starting at age 18 or when you become sexually active.
• After two or three normal (negative) tests, ask your physician for further recommendations on how often to have the test.
Prostate Cancer Screenings
• The ACS recommends an annual digital rectal exam and PSA (prostate specific antigen) screening beginning at age 50 for men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy and for younger men at high risk.
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
• After age 50, have a yearly fecal occult blood test and a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. Another option is to have a colonoscopy every 10 years. A third option is to have a double-contrast barium enema performed every five to 10 years.
For additional information on cancer screenings, visit the following websites:
• American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org)
• The Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/)
• U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org)