Take a look at some of these screening recommendations and talk to your doctor about which one(s) are right for you. The age you start doing these screenings or frequency might change, depending on your risk level, family history of disease and lifestyle.
- What is it? A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast, explains the American Cancer Society1.
- Who should get it and how often? According to the American Cancer Society2, women 55 and older should get a mammogram every other year. At age 75, you can stop screening, says the American Society of Clinical Oncology3.
- Why is it important? A mammogram is the best line of defense in detecting breast cancer — sometimes up to three years before a lump can be felt, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention4. At the start of COVID-19, hospitals and healthcare facilities delayed or canceled elective procedures, including mammograms, says
BreastCancer.org5. That drop in screening rates led to fewer early-stage and more late-stage breast cancer diagnoses in 2020 than 2019, cites a study in JAMA Network Open6.
- What is it? This exam can tell if there are any swollen, irritated tissues, polyps (little growths) or cancer in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, explains Mayo Clinic7.
- Who should get it done and how often? Both men and women need to start screening at age 45, and every ten years thereafter, according to the American Cancer Society8. You can stop screening at age 85, says the American Cancer Society9.
- Why is it important? A simple screening can save your life. Colon cancer starts from polyps that develop on the lining of the colon or rectum, Cleveland Clinic10 explains. These polyps can become cancerous. During the screening, your doctor can see these polyps and get rid of them — which decreases your risk of colon cancer, states Cleveland Clinic11.
PSA (prostate-specific antigen) Test:
- What is it? It’s a simple blood test that can screen for prostate cancer, explains Mayo Clinic12.
- Who should get it done and how often? According to Mayo Clinic13, there’s a lot of conflicting advice about PSA testing. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and preferences to see if it’s right for you. If you decide to do a test, the American Cancer Society14 recommends it for men older than 50. If no prostate cancer is found, your doctor will talk to you about when you should do your next screening. You can stop screening around age 70, says Mayo Clinic15.
- Why is it important? Mayo Clinic16 reports early detection can help find cancer before it becomes deadly or causes severe symptoms.
- What is it? It’s a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol (a waxy, fat-like substance in all the cells of your body) and triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood) in your blood, notes Mayo Clinic17.
- Who should get it done and how often? Both men and women should check their cholesterol every four to six years, starting at age 20, advises the American Heart Association18.
- Why is it important? High cholesterol typically doesn’t show any signs or symptoms, cites Mayo Clinic19. Knowing your cholesterol levels is important because it can show you if you’re at risk for heart attacks, heart disease or diseases of the blood vessels, says Mayo Clinic20.
High Blood Pressure Test:
- What is it? This test measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps, explains Mayo Clinic21.
- Who should get it done and how often? Mayo Clinic22 advises men and women to do this test every year after age 40. It’s a routine part of most health check-ups.
- Why is it important? High blood pressure often shows no symptoms, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention23. Knowing your numbers is important because high blood pressure can put you at greater risk for heart disease or stroke, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention24.
PS: Get Motivated to Do a Screening
Now that you know why screenings are so important, it’s time to call your doctor and get started. Hmmm…still haven’t picked up the phone? Read on:
- See if a friend or loved one will come with you (or schedule yours together around the same time).
- Plan something fun to do after the screening or treat yourself to something special.
- Ask yourself, “What’s holding me back from doing this?” Identifying the emotional (or sometimes, logistical reason) is key to taking the first step toward making the appointment.