Cancer Screenings: Key to Early Detection

Screening discussion with physicianYou’ve probably heard it before: “Make sure you receive regular screening tests for cancer!” But it deserves to be repeated. Why? Because more and more Americans are surviving cancer and it’s partly due to early detection of the disease.

Screening tests are used to spot cancer before it causes any symptoms. Usually, the sooner cancer is found, the better the chance it can be treated before it has spread. This often means that treatment will be more successful.

The bottom line is, early detection of cancer can save many lives. And a key piece of early detection is the use of screening tests.

Common Cancer Screenings
The following are the American Cancer Society’s screening recommendations for certain cancers. Please note that other organizations may have varying guidelines.

Cancer Type


Screening Test

How Often






Every year, beginning at age 45 until age 54, then every other year for women ages 55 and older



Pap test



Pap test combined with HPV test

Every 3 years, beginning at age 21 until age 29


Every 5 years, beginning at age 30 until age 65


(One of the tests to the right will be done)


Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)


Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)


Stool DNA test


Flexible sigmoidoscopy


Virtual colonoscopy



Every year, beginning at age 45




Every year, beginning at age 45




Every 3 years, beginning at age 45


Every 5 years, beginning at age 45



Every 5 years, beginning at age 45



Every 10 years, beginning at age 45



Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test


Men ages 50 and older should discuss the advantages and limitations of this test with their providers


Men at high risk should have discussions starting at age 45

Start the Conversation
Take a picture of the schedule above and show it to your primary care provider. Use it as a starting point to figure out the screening schedule, method, and frequency that’s best for you. Need a provider? Click here.