Screenings give your doctors the chance to detect diseases before symptoms occur. In some cases, such as for breast or colorectal cancer, screenings allow doctors to detect cancers at earlier and more easily treatable stages. For that reason, regular screenings are an essential part of your health.
Health screening guidelines, especially for cancer screenings, are often broken down by age. However, your primary care provider (PCP) may recommend beginning some screening tests earlier or later than the general recommendations. This will depend on your health history, genetics, and other risk factors your provider can tell you more about.
Age 40 and Younger
- Cervical cancer: Women should receive Pap tests every three years, starting at age 21 and continuing until age 65. By age 30, women can instead receive HPV screenings every five years.
- Diabetes: If your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 25 or if your blood pressure is high, your PCP may also test for Type 2 diabetes by measuring your blood sugar levels.
- Heart disease: Your PCP will check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to check for signs of cardiovascular disease, especially because high blood pressure or cholesterol can be asymptomatic.
- Skin cancer: If you’re high-risk for skin cancer, your provider may perform a skin exam. You can also perform a skin self-exam.
In addition to heart disease, diabetes and skin cancer screenings, here are the screenings recommended for people between the ages of 40-55.
- Breast cancer: Women should begin receiving annual mammograms by age 40.
- Colorectal cancer: Men and women should start regular screenings for colorectal cancer by age 45.
- Lung cancer: If you are age 50 or older, currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and have a 20 pack-year history, you may qualify for a lung cancer screening.
Age 55 and Older
In addition to heart disease, diabetes and skin cancer screenings, here are the screenings recommended for people ages 55 and older.
- Prostate cancer: Men may begin prostate cancer screenings by age 55 if their provider recommends it.
The Importance of Annual Visits
Remember to also make time for your annual primary care visits. These annual visits allow you to discuss your current health habits with your PCP and ask any questions or bring up additional concerns. Your primary care provider can also use this time to ensure your immunizations and prescriptions are up to date.