Cancer Screening Guidelines

Early detection plays a huge role in cancer survival. That’s why SSM Health believes in the value of routine, preventative screenings.

Family medical history, lifestyle choices, as well as other factors can put you at a greater risk for cancer. Even if you are in a low-risk group, with no symptoms of the disease, regular screenings are an important part in successfully diagnosing and treating cancer.

We recommend that those aged 20 and older receive periodic health exams, including a cancer-related checkup. Depending on your age, gender and family history, your doctor may recommend additional exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes, and ovaries.

Breast Cancer Screening

Starting at age 40, SSM Health recommends annual mammograms for women. We advise women to:

  • Continue receiving mammograms for as long as you are in good health
  • Have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of your periodic health exam every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and annually for women over 40
  • Perform breast self-exams (BSE) beginning at age 20

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Beginning at age 50, men and women at an average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have one of the screening tests below:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every five years

If you have any of the following risk factors for colorectal cancer, we advise that you be screened early and more frequently:

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes

Cervical Cancer Screening

Our physicians recommend that all women begin cervical cancer screening about three years after beginning vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old. Screening should be done annually with a Pap test, or every two years using the liquid-based Pap test. Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may modify their screening schedule to once every two to three years. However, women with the below risk factors should continue to be screened annually:

  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth
  • HIV infection
  • Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic steroid use

If you are 70 years of age or older, and have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row, with no abnormal results in the last 10 years, you may opt to stop receiving cervical cancer screenings. Women who have had a total hysterectomy may also choose to stop receiving screenings, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for the disease or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix should continue to follow the guidelines above.

Endometrial Cancer Screening

We recommend that at the time of menopause, all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer. It’s strongly encouraged for you to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to your doctor.

If you have or are at a high risk for hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), annual screenings should be done for endometrial cancer with an endometrial biopsy beginning at age 35.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer screenings have their own benefits and limitations to early detection testing. It’s important to have a discussion with your primary care provider to review your personal history and level of risk for developing prostate cancer. From there, you and your physician can decide what the best option will be.

Annual screenings are an effective way to stay on top of your health. Start today by finding an SSM Health primary care provider near you.

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