Understanding Cancer Screening Guidelines When cancer is detected early when it’s still localized in the organ where it originated, conventional therapies such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can often cure it. The best way to detect cancer at this stage is through routine screenings. Therefore, the American Cancer Society recommends the following early detection guidelines for people without symptoms. If symptoms are present or you are at risk, see your physician about the frequency of the tests.
Take the Offensive If you have a family history of a specific cancer, talk to your physician about it and be especially vigilant about regular screenings. A good rule of thumb is to begin screenings 10 years before the age of your closest relative was diagnosed with cancer. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking these lifesaving tests. Early diagnosis of cancer just might save your life.
Men’s Tests Prostate Cancer: Beginning at age 50, all men should have annual digital rectal exams and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests to detect prostate cancer.
Women’s Tests Breast Cancer: The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin performing monthly breast self-exams beginning at age 20. Women age 20-39 should undergo clinical breast exams every three years. At age 40, women should begin having annual clinical breast exams and annual mammograms. Cervical Cancer: All women who are sexually active or 18 or older should have an annual Pap test and pelvic examination. After three or more consecutive satisfactory normal exams, the Pap test may be performed less frequently at the discretion of the physician.
Men and Women Colorectal Cancer: Both men and women should begin having regular colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. People at high risk should speak to their physicians about beginning these screenings earlier. There are three options for colorectal cancer screening. Speak to your physician to determine which is right for you. • A fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy at age 50. Thereafter, a yearly fecal occult blood test and a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. • A double contrast barium enema at age 50 and every five to 10 years thereafter. • A colonoscopy at age 50 and a colonoscopy every 10 years thereafter. General Screening: From age 20-39, both men and women should have cancer-related checkups every three years. After 40, they should have them annually. These checkups should include examination for cancers of the thyroid, testicles, ovaries, lymph nodes, oral cavity and skin. They should also include health counseling about tobacco, sun exposure, diet and nutrition, risk factors, sexual practices and environmental and occupational exposures.
8110-6774.1/Sept. 2007 
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