Cancer is one of the most insidious diseases of the modern era because it comes in many forms. This can make it hard to diagnose and treat.
Given cancer’s many varieties, it’s no wonder that many patients have no idea when they should be screened, or what screening tools are most effective. Here’s a simple breakdown of when to get screened based on your age and gender.
Gender-Specific Cancer Screenings
Cancer Screening Guidelines for Men
Although there was once a push for testicular self-exams among young men, as this is the most common cancer within this age group, regular screenings are ineffective at preventing testicular cancer deaths. The cancer is rare and usually curable, but young men should still watch out for lumps or pain and report troublesome symptoms to their doctor.
Men do not need to undergo gender-specific cancer screenings at this age unless symptoms emerge or they have risk factors they wish to discuss with their doctor.
Digital rectal exams and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests can be inaccurate in determining prostate risk and often lead to overdiagnosis. Still, at-risk individuals may wish to start prostate cancer screenings at age 40 or 45, depending on their specific situation and their doctor’s recommendation. Risk factors include:
- One or more close relatives who are diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65
- Being African American
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation
Average- or high-risk patients may wish to begin regular prostate exams and PSA tests at this age, depending on their risk factors and lifestyle choices.
Prostate exams and PSA tests may still be appropriate in older age if the patient is in good health and expects to live at least 10 more years.
Cancer Screening Guidelines for Women
Starting at age 21, women should receive a Pap smear every three years, even if they received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (Gardasil) in their younger years. Women who have had a total hysterectomy do not need to be screened for cervical cancer, assuming the surgery was not related to cervical pre-cancer.
At age 30, it is recommended that women move to co-testing, which includes an HPV test and a Pap smear, every five years. They can also choose to continue the three-year Pap smear screening schedule.
Women may elect to have annual breast exams and mammograms starting at age 40. Depending on their family history, some women may want to start screening even earlier and undergo breast MRIs. Women who have dense breast tissue or a specific gene mutation that makes breast cancer more likely should consider early screening. By age 45, every woman should be receiving an annual mammogram regardless of cancer risk.
Women should continue receiving HPV tests and Pap smears as usual. At age 55, they can reduce the frequency of mammograms to once every two years or continue with the annual schedule.
At this point, women can stop getting Pap smears unless they have had cervical pre-cancer. In that case, they would need screenings 20 years out from the diagnosis. Breast cancer screenings can stop at age 75 or whenever life expectancy is less than 10 years.
Non-Gender-Specific Cancer Screenings
Lung Cancer Screening
Patients do not need low-dose CT scans (LDCTs) for lung cancer unless they are:
- Age 55 or older
- A current or former 30 pack-year smoker (a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)
- Actively smoking or have quit within the past 15 years
Those who are 75 or older or those who quit smoking more than 15 years ago but have no signs of lung cancer do not need cancer screenings.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Most people do not need colorectal cancer screenings until age 45 or 50. They can choose from either a colonoscopy, a stool sample kit or CT colonography. Average-risk patients only need a screening every 10 years, assuming no polyps are found.
By age 75, you may no longer needed colorectal cancer screenings, so discuss your options with your doctor. Patients 85 and older do not need screenings anymore.
If you have certain risk factors, you may need to begin colorectal cancer screenings in your 20s, 30s or 40s. Potential risks include:
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Lynch syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
Personalized Cancer Treatment in East Texas
No one wants to hear that they have cancer, but there is always hope even after diagnosis. At HOPE Cancer Center of East Texas, our friendly oncologists work with each patient to craft a solution specifically for them. That could include chemo, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, genetic testing, integrative therapy, clinical trial treatments and much more.
If you aren’t satisfied with your current cancer treatments or you just want compassionate care, the doctors at HOPE would be happy to treat you. Call 903.592.6152 today to request your appointment.