Your Essential Guide to Cancer Screenings

Detecting cancer early — when it’s most treatable — should be a key part of your self-care plan. The following screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS) are for people who have an average risk for cancer. If you have an increased risk — due to your family history, for instance — ask your doctor if you should be screened at an earlier age or more often.

Some adults — depending on age, gender or other risk factors — may need periodic exams for other cancers, such as those of the skin, ovaries or oral cavity. Here’s just one example: Fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time outdoors and have a history of sunburns may be at higher risk for skin cancer.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital-affiliated internal medicine physician Dr. Lloyd Kuritsky, stresses the importance of early detection. “Many diseases are symptom-free until it may be too late. Early detection and treatment of many cancers can be lifesaving.”

Breast Cancer

  • Clinical breast exam by a doctor every three years for women in their 20s and 30s or every year for women 40 and older
  • Optional: Breast self-exam starting in their 20s
  • Women with a heightened breast cancer risk should ask their doctors about the risks and benefits of an annual MRI and mammogram
  • Yearly mammograms starting at age 40

Cervical Cancer

  • At age 30, women who have had three normal Pap tests in a row can be screened every two to three years
  • Regular Pap tests should be done annually, or every two years if they are a liquid-based test
  • Women ages 70 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row, and no abnormal tests in the past 10 years, can stop having this test
  • Women should begin screenings three years after they begin having intercourse, but no later than age 21

Colon and Rectal Cancer
People with an average risk for colorectal cancer should have one of these tests beginning at age 50. Ask your doctor which test you should have.

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Double contrast barium enema every five years
  • Fecal occult blood test annually
  • Fecal immunochemical test annually
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Stool DNA test

Endometrial Cancer
After menopause, women who have bleeding or spotting should tell their doctors, who may order screenings.

Prostate Cancer
Men at average risk for prostate cancer don’t need testing. Beginning at age 50, men may choose to have an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Find a San Diego Oncologist
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego oncologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.