Below are the guidelines for cancer screening for ages 50 and above. For both men and women, recommended screenings include colon cancer and in certain cases lung cancer. Men also test for prostate cancer and women for breast and cervical cancers.
Colon cancer screening starts at age 50, although screening is recommended at an earlier age in high-risk family history cases and other medical factors. There are various testing options available including fecal immunochemical test (FIT), guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), stool DNA test, or MT-sDNA, CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy, and the colonoscopy. Capsule endoscopy is a newer procedure where the patient swallows a capsule with cameras on each end taking thousands of pictures, transmitted wirelessly to a recorder. Although less invasive than the colonoscopy, it is not the first choice for cancer screening and is more often used for small intestinal surveillance, where scopes cannot reach.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer screening is considered on a case-by-case basis. In patients with a chronic smoking history, low-dose CT scans are recommended for early lung cancer detection. The frequency of these scans should be determined by your primary physician or lung specialist (pulmonologist).
For men, prostate cancer screening is recommended at age 50 onward. The common blood test called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is often ordered with routine blood testing performed on a yearly basis. However, the PSA is not specific for prostate cancer as its level can be elevated due to other conditions such as infection, elevated parathyroid hormone, or an enlarged prostate. Physicians have varying opinions on whether to test and how frequently testing should occur.
Women with an average risk of breast cancer should undergo regular screening mammography starting at age 45 years. Women aged 45 to 54 years should be screened annually. Women 55 years and older should screen every other year. Screening should continue biennially with a life expectancy of 10 years or longer. Other newer testing includes blood marker tests and MRI of the breast, although these tests should not replace mammogram screening.
All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. At age 30, a pap test is combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This interval testing should continue until the age of 65. The testing interval changes based on test results, high-risk factors, and other medical conditions based on your primary care and/or gynecologist’s recommendations.
There are always exceptions to the rule, so be sure to discuss your personal health and cancer screening with your primary care physician.
Hansa Medical Groupe has offices at 5250 Old Orchard Road, Suite 300, in Skokie, and in Chicago, 847-920-0902, hansamedicalgroupe.com.