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Cancer Screenings: Which Tests to Get and When


To stay ahead of cancer, it’s important to work with your provider to identify early signs of abnormalities that could become cancer. Often, the best way to do that is through routine screenings.

But it can be hard to keep track of when to start and how often to get checked. And guidelines can change, like the recent guidance to begin colon cancer screening at 45 instead of 50. We’ve simplified the current recommendations so you can make sure you’re staying up-to-date on these important screenings.

For men

One in 8 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 60 percent of them are age 65 or older at the time. That’s why Adventist Health providers recommend that men be screened for prostate cancer starting at age 50 and every year or two after that. The prostate-specific antigen blood test, or PSA, measures levels in a man’s blood that indicate an enlarged prostate, which could signify cancer. If PSA levels are high, providers can couple the results with a rectal exam and biopsy to determine whether cancer is present.

Read More: Are You Due for a Cancer Screening This Movember?

For women

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer, and risks increase with age. For this reason, Adventist Health providers recommend that women get a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40, then every two years between ages 50 and 75.

Women also should be routinely checked for cervical cancer and HPV with a Pap smear until age 65. In this screening, a provider does a pelvic exam and takes a tissue sample from the cervix to be tested for abnormal cells.

Read More: Breast Cancer Screening: What You Need To Know

For everyone

Both men and women should be checked for colon cancer regularly beginning at age 45. Your provider can recommend the best screening option for you. A common tool to screen for this cancer is a colonoscopy, done every 10 years, in which a provider uses a small camera to look for cancerous growths in the colon.

If you have a history of heavy smoking, your provider might also recommend checking for signs of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer among men and women in the U.S., but early detection with a low-dose CT scan can make a significant difference in treatability. Studies have shown up to a 20 percent improvement in survival rates compared with a traditional chest X-ray. That’s because a low-dose CT scan quickly takes multiple X-rays for a detailed image of the lungs and can detect smaller abnormalities than other methods. Adventist Health providers recommend that people with a history of heavy smoking get a low-dose CT scan every year for three years to detect changes and compare abnormalities over time.

The takeaway

Talk to your healthcare provider about scheduling these cancer screenings:

  • Men: Prostate cancer screening beginning at age 50 (annually/every 2 years)
  • Women: Breast cancer screening beginning at age 40 (annually/every 2 years)
  • Women: Cervical cancer screening until age 65 (annually)
  • Everyone: Colon cancer screening beginning at age 45 (varies depending on type of screening)
  • Current or past smokers or those with other risk factors: Lung cancer screening (every 3 years)

An Adventist Health primary care provider can help you understand what screenings you should schedule and when. Find a provider at a medical office near you.