University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

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Please stay connected to our Focus On Cancer blog by visiting us there.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Recommended Screening Tests for Cancer

A cancer screening is a test that can detect cancer in its early stages or abnormalities that may lead to cancer before symptoms are present. When cancer is detected early, it may be easier to treat and its treatment may have better outcomes.
If you have a genetic predisposition to certain types of cancer, you may need to be screened more often or at an earlier age than the general population.

Some examples of screening recommendations are:
  • Yearly mammograms for women beginning at age 40 and continuing or as long as a woman is in good health.
  • Clinical breast exam every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
  • Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:
    • Tests that find polyps and cancer
      • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
      • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
      • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
      • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
    • Tests that primarily find cancer
      • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
      • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year**, or
      • Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain*
  • All women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old. Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every two years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.
  • Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every two to three years. Women older than 30 may also get screened every three years with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test, plus the human papilloma virus (HPV) test.
  • Women 70 years of age or older who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that many Americans are not getting their recommended cancer screening tests. In fact, a recent report showed that screening rates were significantly lowers for certain ethnic groups, such as Asian and Hispanic. The report also found that screening tests for cervical cancer dipped nearly 3 percent since 2000.

The cancer specialists at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center remind everyone to get their recommended cancer screening tests. National Cancer Prevention Month serves as a reminder to you’re your screening appointments and follow this blog  for cancer prevention tips, recommendations and articles. 

Learn more about recommended screening tests for cancer.

Find out your risk for cancer with the OncoLink "What's My Risk?" tool.

Learn more about your risk for colorectal cancer at CANPrevent Colorectal Cancer on Friday, March 2, 2012 and CANPrevent Skin Cancer on Friday, May 18, 2012.

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