The Simple Cancer Tests That Could Help Save Your Life

If you aren’t getting routine cancer screenings, it may be time to start

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is difficult. However, thinking about cancer screening and prevention now could improve your odds of survival if you have the disease. Routine screenings can lead to early detection. These tests are one of the most powerful cancer weapons our clinical experts have in their arsenal to catch cancer early and give patients more treatment options. If you aren’t sure which screenings you need, Karmanos Cancer Institute and McLaren Health Care experts can work with you to come up with a screening plan.

Screening recommendations vary by the type of cancer and are often related to your age and other risk factors.

Cervical Cancer

The latest guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls for women between 21 and 65 to have:

  • Routine cervical screenings from ages 21-29 every three years;
  • A human papillomavirus (HPV) alone every five years, a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every three years, or a combination of both an HPV and Pap test every five years between the ages of 20 and 65;
  • Those who are 65 and older do not need to test if they have had negative results in the past ten years, have no history of cervical dysplasia or a more serious diagnosis within the past 25 years, and do not have a new partner.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is responsible for most cervical cancer cases.

Even if you or your daughter has had the HPV vaccine, ACS recommends routine cervical cancer screenings for all females. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises parents to have their kids (boys and girls) vaccinated for HPV at age 11 or 12, though vaccination can start at 9.  Adults may also receive the HPV vaccine, depending on their risk factors. Speak to your primary care physician about you and your child’s eligibility for the HPV vaccine.

Women with certain cervical cancer risk factors may need to start screening at an earlier age and should talk with their doctor about the screening plan that is best for them. If you need a women’s health specialist, click here to find a McLaren provider accepting new patients near you.

Breast Cancer

The American College of Radiology (ACR) issued new breast cancer screening guidelines in 2023. One significant change: the ACR now recommends that women, particularly African American and Ashkenazi Jewish women, have a breast cancer risk assessment by the time they are 25 to determine at what age they should begin screening.

Among the ACR guidelines:

  • Women of average risk should begin annual mammograms at 40.
  • Women with a high risk, including women who have genetic risk factors (lifetime risk of 20% or more) or who were exposed to chest radiation before 30, may need to begin screening earlier.

Talk with your doctor about your risk. You do not need a physician referral for a routine mammogram. To schedule one near you, click here.

Colon Cancer

Screening for colon cancer with a colonoscopy could potentially prevent cancer because, during the procedure, a surgeon can remove polyps before they become cancerous. Adults 45 to 75 at average risk of developing colon cancer should receive a colonoscopy every ten years.

People at a higher risk for colon cancer, like those with genetic risk factors, a family history, or inflammatory bowel disease, should talk with their doctors about starting routine colonoscopies at an earlier age.

For a screening at a Karmanos or McLaren location near you, click here.

Prostate Cancer

Men should talk with their doctor and weigh out the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening. The ACS recommends beginning prostate cancer screenings:

  • At age 50, if they are at average risk.
  • At age 45, if they are at an increased risk. This includes African American men and those who have a father or brother who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age.
  • At age 40, if they have more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age.

After discussing it with your doctor, men who want to screen should have an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A digital rectal exam may also be necessary.

Learn more about prostate cancer screening here.

Lung Cancer

A lot of people are unaware that there is an annual lung cancer screening available. Smokers and even former smokers are, by far, at the greatest risk for lung cancer. The screening is a simple, low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. The U.S. Preventative Service Taskforce (USPSTF) recommends annual lung cancer screenings for adults 50 to 80 who are current smokers, those who have quit smoking within the last 15 years, and those who have smoked the equivalent of one pack a day for at least 20 years.

Karmanos and many McLaren hospitals across Michigan have a lung cancer screening program.

Click here to find a location near you.

Additional Cancer Screenings

There are also screenings available for head and neck, skin, and ovarian cancer. Talk with your provider about whether these screenings are right for you.