When it comes to cancer screenings, there can be some confusion as to what tests are recommended, who should be getting them, and how often. Since February is National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good time to review the cancer screening guidelines for 2022. Following these testing recommendations, along with making healthy lifestyle choices, can help lower your risk regarding certain cancers.
The guidelines we’ll reference in this article come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on the recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF is comprised of doctors and disease experts who make their recommendations based on disease prevention research. Let’s take a look at the cancer screenings supported by the CDC based on these clinical findings.
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
- Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early. The earlier breast cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat.
- The USPSTF advises women ages 50-74 who are at average risk for breast cancer to get a mammogram every two years. Women ages 40-49 should talk to their healthcare provider in order to make a well-informed decision about whether to start breast cancer screening before age 50.
Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
- The cervical cancer screening guidelines for 2022 focus on two tests that can help with prevention or early detection – Pap tests and HPV tests.
- The Pap test can find precancers, which are changes in cells that could later develop into cervical cancer if not treated properly.
- The HPV test is used to find the human papillomavirus that can cause those cell changes.
- Women ages 21-29 should start getting Pap tests when they are 21. For those with normal results, physicians generally suggest getting a Pap test every three years.
- Women ages 30-65 should talk to their doctor about which testing option is best for them. Some women may opt for a Pap test only, while others may choose to have only an HPV test. A third option is known as co-testing, where both a Pap test and HPV test are performed.
- Women over 65 should discuss with their physician whether cervical cancer screening is still needed.
Colorectal Cancer Guidelines
- The USPSTF recommends all adults ages 45-75 should get regular colorectal cancer screenings.
- Adults ages 76-85 should consult their doctor about the need for further tests.
- Colorectal cancer almost always develops from abnormal growths known as precancerous polyps. There are several tests that can find these polyps, helping to prevent or detect cancer. These include:
- Stool tests
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT Colonography
- Each test has its own advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you should talk to your physician about which one is right for you and how often you should get it.
Lung Cancer Guidelines
- The lung cancer screening guidelines for 2022 screening only apply to adult smokers who:
- Have a 20 pack-year or more smoking history, AND
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, AND
- Are between the ages of 50 and 80.
- Note: A pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for one year.
- A person who falls into all these categories is considered high-risk because of their smoking history and age.
- Adults at high-risk should consult their physician about whether lung cancer screening is right for them.
- The only screening test recommended for lung cancer is a low-dose CT scan, which has been shown to reduce lung cancer deaths among heavy smokers.
Other Cancer Screening Tests
There are several other cancer screening tests available, but they are not officially recommended by the CDC. In some cases, this is because they have not been shown to reduce cancer deaths. For other tests, the USPSTF found a lack of evidence weighing the benefits and the harms of screening.
These tests include:
- Alpha-fetoprotein blood test for liver cancer
- Breast MRI for breast cancer
- CA-125 test for ovarian cancer
- Clinical breast exams and regular breast self-exams for breast cancer
- Multicancer early detection tests
- PSA test for prostate cancer
- Skin exams for skin cancer
- Transvaginal ultrasound for ovarian and endometrial cancer
- Virtual colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening
It’s important to point out that all these tests do have advantages and may be recommended by physicians on an individual patient basis. You should always consult your doctor if you have questions about any cancer screening test, regardless of whether it’s recommended by the CDC.