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Do You Need a Cancer Screening This Fall?

If you cleared your summer calendar to make time for more warm weather fun, fall may feel like the right time to tackle some things on your to-do list. That might include important health tasks, like getting screened for cancer.  

Screening tests can help catch many types of cancer early, when they’re typically easier to treat. Some screening tests can even prevent cancer by finding cell changes that can be treated before they turn cancerous.

Here’s a rundown of the American Cancer Society’s current recommendations for six common cancers that can be screened for. Take a look—then talk with your doctor to decide which tests might be right for you and how often you should get them.

Skin cancer

  • All adults can ask their doctor to perform a skin exam during a routine checkup.
  • All adults should check their own skin once a month from head to toe. If you notice anything unusual, let your doctor know.

Breast cancer

  • Women 40 to 44 years old should talk with their doctor about the option of starting yearly mammograms.
  • Women 45 to 54 should get a mammogram once a year.
  • Women 55 and older should get a mammogram every one to two years, as long as they’re in good health and are expected to live 10 or more years.

Higher risk considerations: You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you have a family history of the disease or certain gene mutations. In that case, you should get a mammogram and an MRI scan every year, starting at age 30.

Learn more about breast cancer screening.

Prostate cancer

At age 50, men should talk with their doctor to decide if prostate cancer screening is right for them.

Higher risk considerations: Men at higher risk of the disease should ask their doctors about starting the screening at age 45. You may be at higher risk if you’re African American or if your father or brother had prostate cancer before age 65.

Get to know the latest prostate cancer screening guidelines.

Cervical cancer

  • Women 21 to 29 years old should get a Pap test every three years.
  • Women 30 to 65 should get both a Pap test and an HPV test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years.
  • Women over 65 who’ve had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results don’t need to be tested. However, women who have a history of a serious cervical precancer should continue to get Pap tests for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing goes past age 65.

Higher risk considerations: Women with certain health conditions may need to be screened for cervical cancer more often. These include women who are HIV-positive, had an organ transplant, were exposed to DES, or used steroids long-term.

Colorectal cancer

  • Adults 45 years and older should get regular screenings. Your doctor can help you decide which test is best (there are several options, including a colonoscopy) and how often you should be tested.

Higher risk considerations: You may need to be screened before age 45 or more often if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you’ve had or have irritable bowel disease.

Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings.

Lung cancer

Yearly low-dose CT scans may be right for people in certain high-risk groups. You should talk with your doctor about lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are 55 to 77 years old and are in fairly good health.
  • You have a history of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.
  • You still smoke—or you quit less than 15 years ago.

Screening is important; and it is something that each and every one of us can do as a part of our health routine. Making an appointment to get screened isn’t always the most convenient, but the potential early detection of cancer certainly makes it worth it.

For more information on screening, download our screening guide here.