Recommended Cancer Screenings for Women
The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended for women at average risk for cancer (unless otherwise specified) and without any specific symptoms. Women who are at increased risk for certain cancers may need to follow a different screening schedule, such as starting at an earlier age or being screened more often. Those with symptoms that could be related to cancer should see their doctor right away.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Beginning at age 45, the American Cancer Society recommends regular screenings with 1 of 6 different types of tests:
- Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
- Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
All positive tests should be followed up with colonoscopy.
Consult your doctor about starting colorectal screening earlier and/or undergoing screening more often if they have risk factors:
- Personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
The American Cancer Society does not recommend tests to check for lung cancer in people who are at average risk. But we do have screening guidelines for those who are at high risk of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking. Screening might be right for you if you are all of the following:
- 55 to 74 years of age
- In good health
- Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history AND are either still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years (A pack-year is the number of cigarette packs smoked each day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked. Someone who smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years has a 30 pack-year smoking history, as does someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 15 years.)
Screening is done with an annual low-dose CT scan (LDCT) of the chest. If you fit the list above, talk to a health care provider if you want to start screening.
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40
- Clinical breast exam (CBE) should be part of a periodic health exam, every year for women 40 and older.
- Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s; women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care providers.
Women at increased risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests (i.e. breast ultrasound and MRI).
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening about 3 years after beginning vaginal intercourse but no later than 21 years of age.
- Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every 2 years using the newer liquid-based Pap test. In addition, the HPV test is also recommended every 3 years.
Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends that at the time of menopause, all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer, and strongly encouraged to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their doctors. For women with or at high risk for hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), annual screening should be offered for endometrial cancer with endometrial biopsy beginning at age 55.
* These are general guidelines. Discuss your personal schedule for screening guidelines with your primary care doctor.