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The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended for those people at average risk for cancer (unless otherwise specified) and without any specific symptoms.
People 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.
For people age 20 or older having periodic health exams, a cancer-related checkup should include health counseling, and depending on a person's age and gender, might include exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes and ovaries, as well as for some non-malignant (non-cancerous) diseases.
Special tests for certain cancers are recommended as outlined below.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these five testing schedules:
*For FOBT, the take-home multiple sample method should be used.
**The combination of yearly FOBT or FIT flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years is preferred over either of these options alone.
All positive tests should be followed up with colonoscopy.
People should talk to their doctor about starting colorectal cancer screening earlier and/or undergoing screening more often if they have any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors:
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 35.
Both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) should be offered annually, beginning at age 50, to men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy. Men at high risk (African-American men and men with a strong family of one or more first-degree relatives - father, brothers - diagnosed before age 65) should begin testing at age 45. Men at even higher risk, due to multiple first-degree relatives affected at an early age, could begin testing at age 40. Depending on the results of this initial test, no further testing might be needed until age 45.
Information should be provided to all men about what is known and what is uncertain about the benefits, limitations, and harms of early detection and treatment of prostate cancer so that they can make an informed decision about testing.
Men who ask their doctor to make the decision on their behalf should be tested. Discouraging testing is not appropriate. Also, not offering testing is not appropriate.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2006. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2006.
Smith RA, Cokkinides V, Eyre HJ. American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, 2006. CA Cancer J Clin. 2006;56:11-25.
Last Updated: 5/6/2010