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Categories > Family Wellness > Preventing illness and disease

Screen savers

It’s easy to become neglectful about your health. Who has time for mammograms and colonoscopies when you work long hours and have a household to run?

But cancer isn’t concerned with your schedule. It just wants to grow—it can do if it’s left undetected. Don’t give cancer that chance. Take charge of your health by following these American Cancer Society diagnostic screening guidelines:

Cancer typeTestsWhen to get themSpecial cases
Breast (women only)

  • breast self-exam

  • clinical breast exam & mammogram

  • Starting in your 20s (optional): monthly
  • 20s & 30s: at least every three years
  • 40 & older: yearly

High-risk women should have an annual MRI in addition to a yearly mammogram. Ask your healthcare provider about your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
Colorectal (men & women)

  • fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or
  • fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy or
  • double-contrast barium enema or
  • colonoscopy

  • 50 & older: yearly*

  • 50 & older: yearly*


  • 50 & older: every five years
  • 50 & older: every five years
  • 50 & older: every 10 years *The combination of yearly FOBT or FIT and flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years is preferred

You may require more frequent testing or should begin screenings younger if any of these apply to you:

  • personal or family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps
  • personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome

Cervical (women only)

  • Pap test

  • Three years after becoming sexually active (but no later than age 21): yearly or every two years with the liquid-based version*
  • 30 & older with three consecutive normal Pap tests: every two to three years, or every three years using a Pap plus the HPV DNA test
  • 70 & older with three consecutive normal Pap tests and no abnormal results in the past 10 years: may choose to stop screening

Continue annual screenings if you:

  • were exposed prebirth to diethylstilbestrol (DES)—an estrogen given to pregnant women until the 1970s to prevent miscarriage
  • have HIV infection or a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic steroid use

Endometrial (women only)

  • endometrial biopsy

  • 35 & older who are at high risk for hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer: yearly

Testing isn’t required for women not a high risk.
Prostate (men only)

  • digital rectal exam & prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test

  • African-Americans 45 and older: yearly after discussing with your doctor the pros and cons of testing
  • 50 and older: yearly after discussing with your doctor the pros and cons of testing

  • Those with a strong family history should start testing at age 45.
  • Those with multiple immediate family members affected at a young age should start at age 40.

Skin (men & women)

  • skin self-exam
  • skin exam by healthcare provider

  • All ages: monthly
  • All ages: during routine checkups

Those with irregular or large moles; freckles; fair skin; blond, red or light brown hair; or a family history of cancer need to be extra careful about sun exposure and skin cancer.