Cancer Screening Guidelines

The American Cancer Society Recommends the following screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, and prostate cancer.


  • Mammograms: Begin at age 40, continue while in good health
  • Clinical Breast Exams: Every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women in their 40s.
  • Breast Self-Exam: Women should know how their breasts look and feel; report changes to health care provider. Option for women beginning in their 20s and beyond.

NOTE: These guidelines are for most adults; talk to your health care provider about additional testing depending on your individual risk factors (family history, genetics, etc.) or whether you should begin screenings at an earlier age. For more information, see the American Cancer Society document, Breast Cancer: Early Detection.

Beginning at age 50, both men and women, follow one of these testing schedules:

Tests that find polyps and cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years*

Tests that find cancer

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year**, or
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain**

*If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
**The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the physician in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

Tests that find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if available to you and you are willing to have these invasive tests. Talk to your healthcare provider about which test is best for you.

Because of personal history or family history, some people may need to be screened using a different time schedule. Talk to your healthcare provider about your history and what screening schedule is best for you.

For more information, see the American Cancer Society document, Colo-Rectal Cancer: Early Detection

Women should begin screenings about 3 years after having vaginal intercourse but no later than 21 years old. Screenings should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every 2 years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.

At age 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap test in a row may get screened every 2 to 3 years. Women older than 30 may also get screened every 3 years with either the conventional liquid-based Pap test, plus the human papilloma virus (HPV) test.

Age 70 or older: women who have had 3 or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap tests in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests.

Women with total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix) may choose to stop having Pap tests unless surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have hysterectomy without removal of cervix should continue to have Pap tests.

Depending on history, some women may need to have a different screening schedule; discuss with your healthcare provider.

For more information, see the American Cancer Society document, Cervical Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection.

At the time of menopause, all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to your physician. Some women, because of their history, may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy; please discuss your history with your doctor.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits if testing and treatment.

Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if testing is the right choice for you. If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your doctor at age 45.

If you decide to be tested, you should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often you are tested will depend on your PSA levels.

For more information, see the American Cancer Society document, Prostate Cancer: Early Detection.