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When to Get Screened for Cancer

POSTED BY: Ashley White

It’s time to make a stand for the public and offer some simple direction on cancer screenings. The CDC’s Vital Signs report notes that preventative screenings are on the rise, but we can still improve and I agree. However, I also agree that there are so many mixed messages about when to start your screenings for which form of cancer.

The CDC notes that a doctor’s recommendation is the most underused motivator for patients. Health care reform is making preventative screenings more accessible, so that fact that 1 in 3 adults are not getting screened as recommended is unacceptable.

Dr. David Decker, medical director of the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, makes his recommendations, which align with the American Cancer Society, as a physician, medical director and husband of a breast cancer survivor:

Breast Cancer

  • As women enter their 20s, breast Self-exams are very important and should be done regularly.

  • For women in their 20s or 30s, clinical breast exams (CBE) should be done about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s. every year for women 40 and over.

  • At age 40, every women should have a yearly clinical breast exam and a mammogram. These should continue for life unless an abnormality is found.

Colorectal and Polyps

  • Beginning at age 50, both men and women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. Talk to your doctor about alternative testing options.

Cervical Cancer

  • Three years after starting vaginal intercourse, a regular Pap test should be done every year. 

  • By 21 years old, every women should have a Pap test every year.

  • At age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row only need screening every two to three years.

  • At age 70 or older, women who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests.

  • Women may choose to stop Pap tests all together if, a women has had a total hysterectomy and has no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue to have Pap tests.

Endometrial (uterine) cancer

  • At the time of menopause, all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer.

Prostate cancer

  • Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of prostate testing as research has not yet shown that the benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing.