A healthy lifestyle is important in helping to prevent cancer.  Another important step you can take to protect your health is to be aware of cancer screening guidelines.  Talk with your primary care provider, get regular check-ups, and get tested to detect any abnormalities or changed conditions before symptoms develop.  Early detection is your best weapon in the fight against cancer.

The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended by the American Cancer Society for those people at average risk for cancer or without any specific symptoms.

People who are at increased risk for certain cancers due to family history or other conditions, may need to follow a different screening schedule.  Talk with your primary care provider to determine if you fall into a higher risk category and to determine the appropriate cancer screening schedule for you.

Breast Cancer

Yearly mammograms to detect cancer and precancerous changes are recommended for women starting at age 40.

In addition, clinical breast exams should be conducted every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and annually for women 40 and over.

Also recommended for women starting in their 20s is breast self-exams done monthly in order to identify color changes, skin irregularities, lumps and changes in the nipples.

Colon and Rectal Cancer

A baseline colonoscopy should be done in both men and women to detect cancer and precancerous growths (polyps) on the inside wall of the colon at age 50.  After that, it should be done every 10 years.

Cervical Cancer

All women should have a pap smear done to detect abnormal cells that may become cancerous annually beginning in their 20s.  After age 30, women may get screened every one to three years.  Follow the guidance of your provider.

In addition, pelvic exams to detect cancer and precancerous changes of the cervix, uterus and ovaries should be done annually in women beginning at age 20.

Prostate Cancer

Beginning at age 50, men should have both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) annually to detect prostate cancer in the earliest stages.

In addition, testicular self exam to detect testicular cancer should be done monthly beginning at age 20.

For more information about these and other cancer screening tests, talk with your primary care provider.

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