Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center

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Cancer Screenings

Cancer screenings are extremely important when it comes to safeguarding your health, and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we prioritize staying at the forefront of current guidelines.

Prioritizing your health by considering appropriate cancer screenings is a proactive step towards early detection and improving outcomes.

Talk with your health care provider to determine which cancer screenings are right for you.

Types of Cancer Screenings

Oral Cancer: Ages 18+

Schedule a dental exam. Your dentist should regularly screen for oral cancer as part of any regular dental treatment or six-month cleaning.

Keep in mind certain factors that could increase the risk of developing oral cancer:

  • Tobacco uses in any form, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption.
  • A history of HPV infection.
  • Significant sun exposure.

Learn more about oral cancer risk factors here.

Skin Cancer: Ages 18+

You should receive a skin cancer screening by a trained clinician at least once a year.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles or other skin lesions.
  • The appearance of a new growth or spot on the skin.
  • A sore that doesn't heal.
  • Spots on the skin that look different from others.
  • Spots that change, itch or bleed.

By receiving regular screenings and staying aware of changes in your skin, you can help ensure that any potential issues are caught early and can be addressed effectively.

Learn more about non-melanoma skin cancer risk factors.

Learn more about melanoma risk factors.

Learn more about melanoma: risk factors, signs and prevention.

Cervical Cancer: Ages 21+

Starting at age 21, you should begin screenings for cervical cancer with a Pap test.

At age 25 get a Pap Test with HPV-based test.

At age 30 and above get a Pap Test and HPV test every 5 years to check for cervical cancer.

At age 65, screening may be stopped if all results have been normal, with no history of high-grade cervical dysplasia, and two normal Pap and HPV tests.

Women who have had a hysterectomy, with normal prior screening results and no history of cervical dysplasia or cancer, may choose to discontinue screening.

Learn more about what types of screening tests are used to identify cervical cancer and what happens during a screening.

Take the cervical cancer risk assessment

Learn more about HPV and its association with cervical cancer.

Breast Cancer: Ages 40+

Starting at age 40, get a mammogram every year to check for breast cancer. Early detection is critical in treating breast cancer, and regular mammograms can help identify potential issues before they become more advanced.

Learn more about why you should get a mammogram from the Breast Imaging and Diagnostic Center.

Cancer can affect anyone, but certain factors can increase your risk. Some of these factors include:

  • Being female and older than 50 are two of the most significant reasons for an increased risk of developing cancer.
  • Being a cancer survivor or had previous radiation treatment.
  • A family history of certain cancers and inherited gene mutations.
  • Other risk factors include being overweight, daily alcohol consumption, hormone use, and some benign breast abnormalities.

Learn more about risk factors here.

Additionally, for those at higher risk of breast cancer, or who have concerns about the disease, our Breast Cancer Personalized Risk Assessment, Education, and Prevention Program (B-PREP) can provide additional support and resources. B-PREP offers personalized risk assessments, education on breast cancer prevention and detection, and support services for women and their families. Our goal is to help you understand your risk of breast cancer and empower you to take control of your breast health through early detection and prevention strategies. We encourage all women to prioritize their breast health and schedule regular mammograms and breast cancer screenings as recommended by their healthcare provider.

Take the breast cancer risk assessment.

Prostate: Age 40 to 45+

For men: begin regular screenings at age 45, even if you have no risk factors. This includes getting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which measures the level of a specific protein in the blood that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is a common form of cancer that affects men, particularly those over the age of 50. However, some men may need to begin screening earlier than others depending on their risk factors. Start screenings as early as age 40 if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • If you are Black/African American.
  • If you have a family history of prostate cancer.
  • If you have germline mutations that increase the risk for prostate cancer (discovered through genetic testing).

By getting regular screenings, you can help detect prostate cancer early when it is more treatable and potentially curable. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and when you should begin prostate cancer screening.

Learn more about prostate cancer risk factors and how to make an informed decision when discussing screenings with your physician.

Colorectal Cancer: Ages 45+

For men and women: begin getting screened at age 45, and every ten years if there are no findings.

Start earlier than 45 if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Learn more about colorectal cancer screenings, and take the colorectal cancer risk assessment here.

Lung Cancer 50 to 80

Get screened: if you are between 50 and 80 years old and currently smoke, quit smoking within the last 15 years, or have a smoking history of at least 20 years.

Learn more about lung cancer screenings and our Lung Cancer Screening Program.

Take the lung cancer risk assessment.

Ready to quit smoking? Brigham and Women's Hospital offers an eight-week interactive Smoking Cessation Program with a support group, counseling and more to help you quit smoking for good.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

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