In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of our health. One of the most important ways we can do so, starting in our 20s, is to be periodically screened for different types of cancer. Early detection can be key to eliminating cancer, or slowing its growth.
In this post, we’ll examine who should get screened (and when); how often screenings are necessary; the main types of cancers to get screened for and the tests available. We’ll also offer information about the Western Washington Medical Group Imaging Center, where you can schedule an appointment for diagnosis.
Should you get screened?
The short answer is yes—everyone should be screened for cancer at some point in their lives. Because there are multiple factors that can contribute to someone getting cancer, and certain people are at a higher risk than others to develop specific types of cancer, it does take a little bit of planning to ensure you’re scheduling the appropriate tests at the necessary times in your life to get them.
When to get screened and how often?
If you have access to your family history, that will be your best guide to determine the timeline for when to get screened. In addition to that, there are basic recommendations for certain age groups for the following types of cancers:
Age 20 – 39
Men in the high risk category for colon cancer should be screened at this time; if not, there are no recommended tests for men in this age range.
Women, starting at age 25, should get pap smear tests every three years and an HPV test every five years.
Both men and women at a high risk for skin cancer should begin yearly tests to screen for any abnormalities and continue this as often as recommended by their dermatologist.
Age 45 – 49
Men in the average risk group for colon cancer should start screenings at this time, and those in the high risk for prostate cancer should also begin regular screenings, as determined by their doctor.
Women should begin getting mammograms annually to screen for breast cancer at this time and also screening for colon cancer every five years.
Age 50 – 64
Men who are at an average risk for prostate cancer should begin regular screenings; at 55; if at a high risk for lung cancer should begin low-dose screenings for that as well, after discussing smoking habits and other contributing factors with their doctor.
Women starting at age 55 can reduce mammograms to every two years, unless they are high risk. Also at this age, if they are at a high risk for lung cancer, they should begin screenings.
Age 65 and Older
Men should continue to get colonoscopy screenings until age 75 and decide after that with their health care provider if additional screenings are necessary. Continued testing for prostate and lung cancer should be determined by a medical professional.
Women who have had normal results on cervical cancer testing for 10 consecutive years can eliminate those tests, but should continue screening for colon cancer until age 75. If they are at a high risk for lung or breast cancer, they should continue those screenings as well, per their doctor’s recommendations.
What are the main types of cancers to get screened for?
The most common types of cancers to get screened for are breast, colon, lung, skin, cervical and prostate. However, family history may motivate those who are high risk to also screen for pancreatic, ovarian, testicular, thyroid, oral or bladder cancer.
What types of tests are available?
- For breast cancer, doctors will use a procedure called a mammogram.
- For lung cancer, there are low-dose screenings available, which include a computed tomography scan.
- For skin cancer, a visual exam is conducted with follow-up biopsies if any abnormalities are found.
- For cervical cancer, doctors will perform a pap smear.
- For colon cancer, a colonoscopy is administered.
- For prostate cancer, a prostate-specific antigen blood test is conducted.
- For pancreatic cancer, ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans are most commonly used.
- For ovarian cancer, a transvaginal ultrasound and/or a CA-125 blood test may be administered.
Schedule a Cancer Screening
If you or someone in your family wishes to be screened for cancer, please contact our Western Washington Medical Group Imaging Center. The highly skilled technologists there use state-of-the-art equipment to offer the best diagnostic tests available. In fact, our MRI is one of the quietest scanning experiences on the market to provide a more comfortable overall experience.
If you have more general healthcare inquiries, complete the form on this page. We hope to hear from you soon.