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Cancer-Free at Any Age: Checklist for Your Next Checkup

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Screening exams can diagnose cancer at the earliest stages, when treatment will be the most effective. Texas Oncology recommends regular screening and/or self-exams for breast, prostate, colorectal, skin, testicular, and cervical cancers based on the guidelines below.

Adults at Every Age 

  • Keep an eye on your skin and check for changes in freckles, moles, and other skin markings once a month.
  • Women should check their breasts every month for lumps or masses, skin changes such as redness, scaling or dimpling, nipple discharge, or other changes.
  • Men should check both testicles for hard lumps, nodules, and changes in size or shape every month.
  • Individuals should be aware of their cancer risk, which may be higher for those with a personal or family history of cancer, or people who have certain genetic profiles that have been associated with specific cancer types. Screening may need to begin at an earlier age for those with these risk factors.
  • Research does not indicate the most appropriate age to begin cancer screening. Patients should consult a physician to make an informed decision about screening, considering the patient’s history and circumstances.
  • Women who have a first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.
  • Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, and/or other cancers should consider evaluation by a genetic counselor.

20s 

  • Women in their 20s should have a clinical breast exam every three years.
  • Women should have a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer every three years beginning at age 21 and not before.

30s 

  • Women in their 30s should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years.
  • Women in their 30s should have a Pap test and DNA HPV test every five years or only a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer. The DNA HPV test, given in conjunction with a routine Pap test, may identify existing HPV infections that could lead to cervical cancer.
  • Women should discuss their breast cancer risk level with a physician to determine the most appropriate breast cancer screening options, including mammograms and MRI screening.

40s 

  • Women age 40 and older should consider having an annual mammogram, an annual clinical breast exam, and if recommended by a physician, an annual MRI screening.
  • Women in their 40s should continue to have a Pap test and DNA HPV test every five years, or only a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer.
  • Men with a high risk of prostate cancer (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer before age 65) should discuss with a physician whether screenings are appropriate beginning at age 45.
  • Men with a higher risk of prostate cancer (those with several immediate family members with prostate cancer) should discuss screenings with a physician beginning at age 40. Men with the BRCA gene mutation, in particular BRCA2, also have an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Men and women with increased risk factors for colorectal cancer should discuss with a physician whether to begin screenings earlier than the normal age 50.

50s through 70s 

  • Women age 50 and older should have an annual mammogram, an annual clinical breast exam, and if recommended by a physician, an annual MRI screening.
  • Women in their 50s should continue to have a Pap test and DNA HPV test every five years to screen for cervical cancer or only a Pap test every three years. Women over age 65 should discuss the need for continued screening with a physician.
  • Beginning at age 50, men should discuss with a physician the benefits and risks associated with prostate cancer screening to determine if it is right for them. Prostate cancer screening may involve a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal examination (DRE).
  • Beginning at 50, both men and women should begin screening for colorectal cancer with one of the following options:
    • Annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT)
    • Every five years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema
    • Every 10 years, a colonoscopy or every five years, a virtual colonoscopy
     

80s and Beyond 

  • Men and women age 80 and older should consult a physician about the benefits and risks of cancer screenings.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation, and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists