Preventive Screening Guidelines

Colorectal Cancer & Polyps:

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:

  • Tests that find polyps and cancer
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)*

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

The American Cancer Society recommends that some people be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history so talk to your doctor about which test and schedule is best for you.

The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests.

Prostate Cancer:

The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don't know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment.

Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if testing is the right choice for you. 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 have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam.

Breast Cancer:

Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s with monthly breast self-exam (BSE) for women starting in their 20s.

Yearly mammograms and clinical breast exam every year with monthly breast self-exam are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.

Schedule your mammogram today!

The American Cancer Society recommends that some women — because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors — be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all the women in the US.)

Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Cervical Cancer:

All women should begin cervical cancer screening about 3 years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old. Women ages 21-29 should have a Pap test every 3 years.

Beginning at age 30, women should either have a Pap test plus an HPV test every 5 years or have only a Pap test done every 3 years.

Women 65 years of age or older who have had 3 or more consecutive negative Pap tests or 2 consecutive negative HPV and Pap tests with the last 10 years with the most recent test occurring within the last 5 years may choose to stop cervical screenings.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) should stop cervical cancer screenings. Abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue to have Pap tests.

Cancer Related Check-Ups

For people age 20 or older having periodic health exams, a cancer related check-up should include health counseling about tobacco, sun exposure, diet and nutrition, risk factors, sexual practices, and environment and occupational exposures and examination for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes, and ovaries.

Some people should be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history. Talk with your doctor about your history and what screening schedule is best for you.

Cancer Screening Guidelines