Cancer Screening Exams You Should Never Skip

Has anyone ever told you that, “No news is good news?” The old saying couldn’t be farther from true when it comes to preventing cancer! Not all cancers have a test that reveal their presence in our bodies, but the screening tests we do have right now are the best ways to detect signs of certain cancers early on. Missing just one of these screening exams could mean the difference between life and death, as diagnostic delays can lower the effectiveness of even the most powerful treatments. Here are the cancer screening exams that you should absolutely not skip out on, and when you should schedule them, based on recommendations of experts. 

Cancer Screening for Any Gender

CT Scan to Detect Lung Cancer

To detect early signs of lung cancer brought on by smoking or other environmental factors, you should consult with your doctor if you need to plan yearly computed tomography (CT) scans. This is recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology for people ages 55-89 who are high-risk for lung cancer. Their research shows that out of everyone who would fall into the category of those needing the test, only 1.9% of them even get it!

Stool Tests & Colonoscopies for Colorectal Cancer

Colon, or colorectal, cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide, and the third most deadly. This is why you must, to quote the Canadian Cancer Society, “Make your bottom your top priority.” It’s recommended that people who are ages 50-74 and not at high risk have a stool test every 2 years, and a colonoscopy when you turn 45. If you remain at a low risk, it’s recommended to get a colonoscopy every 10 years. 

Cancer Screening for Women

Mammograms to Detect Breast Cancer

Regular mammograms can detect cancerous cells in breast tissue before a patient even feels any symptoms of the disease. It’s recommended that women between ages 50-74 with a low risk of breast cancer should schedule mammograms once every two years. Women between ages 40-50 should speak with their doctor about their individual risk of breast cancer based on family history and gene testing, and possibly schedule their mammograms earlier than general recommendations. Another important screening method for breast cancer is a clinical breast exam, which is a part of an annual female wellness appointment. This is where a doctor or nurse uses their hands to detect any lumps or unusual texture in the breast, which may indicate the presence of a tumor. Women should also regularly examine themselves for any changes in their breasts in order to know when they should see a doctor for more information.

PAP Smears To Detect Cervical Cancer

Women over the age of 21 should get yearly PAP smears as part of their yearly female wellness appointment to detect early signs of cervical cancer. The PAP test looks for abnormal cells in the cervix that are precancerous, which means they have the potential to turn into cancer if left untreated. Cells are collected from your cervix and examined in a lab. Typically, early interventions are very effective at eliminating any cervical cancer cells. In more extreme cases, the tests give patients a headstart on beating their cancer.

Cancer Screening for Men

Rectal Exam to Detect Prostate Cancer

1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, which makes screening for it incredibly important! Doctors will determine a patient’s risk for developing prostate cancer and add rectal exams as part of an annual physical starting around age 50. Men who have had family members develop prostate cancer should ask about screening starting at age 45. 

Self-Examination for Testicular Cancer

Men can develop testicular cancer at any age, but it most often occurs in men between ages 15 and 45. Doctors recommend that all men be familiar with the look and feel of their testicles, and alert them to any change. 

Report Any Strange Symptoms to Your Doctor

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of all of the methods that medicine has for detecting cancer, and many more types of cancer are diagnosed every day than the ones listed here. These are simply the cancers for which we have enough data to develop regular testing schedules and methods. If you experience odd symptoms, regardless of the potential cause, you should contact your doctor. It may alert them to examine you for cancers that are less common, or not as easily tested for. Early detection of a malignant tumor can save your life!