Taking place every February 4, World Cancer Day empowers individuals and communities to show support, raise awareness and encourage screening to identify cancer when it is most treatable. Cancer symptoms can be easy to overlook. In some cases, the disease will occur with no noticeable signs or ones that develop only in advanced stages. This makes regular cancer screenings crucial.
Breast cancer: Screening guidelines vary, but the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual mammograms for women of average risk between 45 and 54, with the option to start at 40. At 55, a woman can switch to biennial screenings or continue annual exams, and screenings should continue as long as she is in good health and expected to live for the next 10 years or more.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends biennial mammography for women aged 50 to 74, with the option to start screenings at 40. All women are encouraged to speak with their doctor to come up with the best screening timeline for their situation.
Cervical cancer: According to the USPSTF, women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a Pap test (which screens for cervical cancer) performed every three years. Women aged 30 to 65 have another option: an HPV test, with or without the Pap test, every 5 years.
Colorectal cancer: Men and women should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50, according to the USPSTF, and 45, per ACS recommendations. Both organizations recommend screenings until age 75, at which point, you should speak with your healthcare provider about future screenings. Speak also with your doctor about getting screened sooner if you have conditions like IBD or a close relative with colorectal cancer.
Lung cancer: The USPSTF recommends yearly lung cancer screenings for people between 55 and 80 who have a history of heavy smoking and still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.
Prostate cancer: Starting around age 40, men should speak with a healthcare provider about the risk of prostate cancer and the benefits and drawbacks of screenings.
Those at increased risk for specific diseases should speak with their healthcare provider about personalized screening schedules.
We also recommend kicking the smoking habit, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight – all of which help reduce your cancer risk. Even with the proper precautions, cancer can still affect anyone. If you see or feel something unusual – even if you suspect it might be harmless – visit your doctor for an evaluation.