The WHY Behind the Reminders About Cancer Screenings

Author: McLaren Flint




Annual cancer screening reminders may feel a bit like the movie Groundhog Day. However, the point healthcare professionals are trying to get across is ‘why’ they matter so much.

There’s no denying it’s all about early detection. Catching cancer early gives you your best chance of being a survivor. Right now, is the best time to get with your doctor to schedule the screenings that apply to you. Here are some of those screening guidelines.

Screening Mammograms for Breast Cancer

All women should make sure they know their breasts. Women 40 and over should get routine breast mammograms. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, especially a first-degree relative who has had the disease, you should have your first mammogram 10 years prior to the age that relative was diagnosed.

You can schedule your annual screening mammogram online today at the McLaren Flint Imaging Center or at McLaren Fenton by visiting A referral is not needed to make an appointment.


Lung Cancer Screening

If you know that you have been exposed to harmful chemicals and gases (e.g., radon), are a current smoker, or you have a smoking history, talk to your primary care provider about a lung cancer screening. Even if you quit smoking, you can still be at risk of developing this disease. 

 Guidelines for lung cancer screenings highlight those who are:

  • 50 –77 years old. 
  • A current or former smoker with at least a 20-pack-year smoking history (one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years) and
  • A current smoker or those who have quit within the last 15 years.
  • Asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms of lung cancer)

Lung cancer screenings can be done in as little as 15 minutes. In Genesee County, patients can schedule their lung cancer screening at the McLaren Flint Imaging Center or the imaging center at McLaren Fenton. Physician orders are required to make an appointment. For more information and for resources to quit smoking, visit or call 1 (844) LUNG SCREEN (1-844-586-4727).


Colorectal Cancer Screening

When was the last time you had a colonoscopy? Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths across the country, among men and women. There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, so it is important to receive regular testing. Generally, men and women who are considered at average risk for colon cancer should begin screenings at age 45. If you are considered high-risk, you may be encouraged to begin screening at an earlier age.

Men and women who are considered high risk for colon cancers are encouraged to speak with their physician about receiving a colonoscopy. Those who are at high risk usually:

  • Are African American. African Americans are recommended to begin screening at an earlier age.
  • Have had colorectal cancer before.
  • Have a history of ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer.
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer or other genetic factors (e.g., Lynch syndrome, or familial polyposis).
  • Have a personal history of colorectal polyps.
  • Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), also known as Crohn’s disease or Colitis.
  • Are obese and/or are physically inactive.
  • Are regular tobacco or alcohol users.
  • Have a diet that is high fat or high in red or processed meat and low in fiber, calcium, fruit and vegetables.
  • Have Type 2 diabetes.

If you fall between these guidelines and the results of your first screening are normal, physicians recommend receiving a colonoscopy every 10 years.

For more information about colonoscopies and for a list of our gastroenterology specialists, visit


Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among women, according to the American Cancer Society. This is due to the ability to catch the disease in earlier stages than in the past. Women are encouraged to receive routine gynecologic evaluations, which include Pap tests, human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, or both. Cervical cancer screenings are recommended beginning at age 21.

 The American Cancer Society recommends the following:

  • Women ages 21-29 receive a Pap test every three years
  • Women ages 30-65 receive a Pap test and an HPV test every five years
  • Women over 65 years old who have not had abnormal test results do not need to be screened
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy do not need to be screened

Speak to your physician to decide which test is right for you. These tests are usually done during your routine appointment with your gynecologist or primary care provider. For more information on HPV and Pap tests, visit

Prostate Cancer 

Prostate cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer among men. Men who are nearing 50 years of age or older should speak with their primary care provider to understand if they should receive a digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test routinely. Each man’s prostate health varies - some men may have to receive screenings at an earlier age, especially if they are considered high risk. This could be true if they:

  • Have a family history of prostate cancer, including a father, son or brother who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65. A man’s risk increases when he has more than one close family member who has been diagnosed.
  • Are African American. African American men have a higher death rate due to prostate cancer than American men with European descent.


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is very common, and screening can help find it when it's easier to treat. Your healthcare provider can do a skin cancer screening, and you can also check your skin yourself. To do a skin cancer screening, you or your provider are checking your skin for moles, birthmarks, or other areas that have an unusual color, size, shape, or texture. If an area of skin doesn't look normal, you may need tests, such as a skin biopsy, to find out if it's cancer. Your risk for all types of skin cancer is higher if you have:

  • Had frequent exposure to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight, such as tanning beds
  • Pale skin that burns and freckles easily
  • Skin that tans a little or not at all
  • Blond or red hair
  • Light colored eyes, including blue or green


There are also two vaccines available that can assist in preventing cancer. These vaccines help to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B virus (HBV). The HPV vaccination can prevent several different kinds of cancer and the HBV can help prevent liver cancer. 

Some cancer screenings require physician orders or referrals. Should you need a new primary care provider, visit to view a list of providers who are accepting new patients. Cancer screening guidelines change frequently. Make sure to speak with your primary care provider about the types of cancer screenings you may need, and when to receive them.