When & How Often to Get Screenings

Early Detection Saves Lives

The following early detection guidelines for people without symptoms are recommended by the American Cancer Society and endorsed by University's Cancer Services program. If symptoms are present or a person is at high risk, then the frequency of the tests and examinations can change upon the advice of a physician.

Breast Cancer (Women, ages 20+)

  • Breast Self Exam (BSE): Monthly, starting at age 20
  • Clinical Breast Exam: Every three years, ages 20-39; annually starting at age 40
  • Mammography: Annually, starting at age 40

Colorectal Cancer (Men and women, ages 50+)

One of these five testing schedules should be followed. Your physician can help you decide which is best for you:

Cervical Cancer (Women, ages 18+)

  • Screening should begin approximately three years after a woman begins having vaginal intercourse, but no lataer than 21 years of age.
  • Screening should be done every year with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests.
  • At or after age 30, women who have had three normal test results in a row may get screened less frequently unless she has certain risk factors, such as HIV infection or a weakened immune system.
  • Women 70 and older who have had three or more consecutive Pap tests in the past 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer screening.
  • Screening after a total hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer.

Prostate (Men, ages 50+)

  • Digital rectal examination and prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) offered annually starting at age 50 to men with a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
  • Men at high risk (African-American men and men with a strong family history of one or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age) should begin testing at age 45.

Cancer-related Check-Up (Men and women, ages 20+)

  • Examinations every three years from ages 20 to 39 years and annually after age 40. The cancer-related check-up should include: examination for cancers of the thyroid, testicles, ovaries, lymph nodes, oral cavity and skin. Health counseling about tobacco, sun exposure, diet and nutrition, risk factors, sexual practices and environmental and occupational exposures should be offered.

Reviewed: 12-17-10
Updated: 12-17-10