Cancer Screening Guidelines

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines for most adults. This information and the screening guidelines are provided by the American Cancer Society. Please consult your doctor about cancer screening programs that are right for you.

Click on a category to view guidelines for each type of screening.

Breast Cancer Screening

Yearly mammograms

Beginning at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health

Clinical breast exam (CBE)

About every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s

Every year for women 40 and over

Breast self exam (BSE)

BSE is an option for women beginning in their 20s. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel. Report any breast change promptly to your health care provider.

MRI screening

Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. Less than 2% of all women in the United States fall into this category. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Colorectal Cancer and Polyps Screening

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*

Tests that primarily find cancer

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)*,**, or
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year*,**

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

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

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. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

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

For more information read the American Cancer Society document called Colorectal Cancer: Early Detection.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening should begin at age 21. Women under age 21 should not be tested.

Pap test

Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.

Pap + HPV Co-testing

Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called "co-testing") every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.

Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again.

Women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.

A woman who has had her uterus removed (and also her cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.

A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.

Some women – because of their health history – may need to have a different screening schedule for cervical cancer.

For more information see the ACS document called Cervical Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection

Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society recommends that at the time of menopause, all women should be told about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer.

Women should report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their doctors. Some women – because of their history – may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy.

Please talk with your doctor about your history.

For more information read the ACS document called Endometrial Cancer.

Lung Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society does not recommend tests to screen for lung cancer in people who are at average risk of this disease.

Screening guidelines for high-risk individuals due to cigarette smoking If you meet all of the following criteria then you might be a candidate for screening:

  • 55 to 74 years of age
  • In fairly good health
  • Have at least a 30 pack per year smoking history AND are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years

For more information read the ACS document Lung Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

Prostate Cancer Screening

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 ACS 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, men should talk to a doctor about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is the right choice for them.

If they are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, men should have this talk with a doctor starting at age 45.

If men decide to be tested, they should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often they are tested will depend on their PSA level.

Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer Screening (mouth and throat cancers)

Regular dental checkups that include an exam of the entire mouth are important in finding oral and oropharyngeal cancers. The American Cancer Society also recommends that doctors examine the mouth and throat as part of a routine cancer-related checkup.

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