Your guide to when you should screen and what to expect when testing for various cancers.
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
• The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
• The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
If You Are 21 to 29 Years Old
You should start getting Pap tests at age 21. If your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
If You Are 30 to 65 Years Old
Talk to your doctor about which testing option is right for you—
• A Pap test only. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
• An HPV test only. This is called primary HPV testing. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.
• An HPV test along with the Pap test. This is called co-testing. If both of your results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.
If You Are Older Than 65
Your doctor may tell you that you don’t need to be screened anymore if—
• You have had normal screening test results for several years, or
• You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids.
Most people should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 45, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 45, or more often than other people, if—
• You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
• You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
• You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)external icon or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about—
• When to begin screening.
• Which test is right for you.
• How often to get tested.
Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations
The United States Preventive Services Task Forceexternal icon (USPSTF) is an organization made up of doctors and disease experts who look at research on the best way to prevent diseases and make recommendations on how doctors can help patients avoid diseases or find them early.
The USPSTFexternal icon recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50.
• Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A breast MRI uses magnets and radio waves to take pictures of the breast. Breast MRI is used along with mammograms to screen women who are at high risk for getting breast cancer. Because breast MRIs may appear abnormal even when there is no cancer, they are not used for women at average risk.