Cancer screening guidelines

Learn about the specific screening programs available at the Markey Cancer Center.

The American Cancer Society guidelines for early detection of specific cancers, with risk based merely on age and sex, are the following:

Screening Test


Sigmoidoscopy (similar to a colonoscopy)

Males and females age 50 and over: Every 3 to 5 years

Fecal occult blood test

Males and females age 50 and over: Every year

Digital rectal exam (DRE)

Males and females age 40 and over: Every year

Prostate exam (DRE & PSA test)

Males age 50 and over: Every year

Pap test

Females who are, or who have been sexually active, or have reached age 18, should have an annual Pap test and pelvic examination. After three or more consecutive normal annual examinations, the Pap test may be performed less frequently at the discretion of the physician.

Breast self-examination

Female age 20 and over: Monthly

Breast clinical examination

Females age 20 to 40: Every three years
Females over age 40: Every year


Females age 40 to 49: Every 1 to 2 years
Females age 50 and over: Every year

These are very general screening guidelines. Certain medical conditions, a specific family history of cancer, or exposure to certain toxic chemicals or conditions may increase significantly the risk of certain cancers and may warrant earlier, more frequent or more specific assessments.

More detailed information on the importance and methods of early detection of cancer can be obtained by calling the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or visiting the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute online.

Page last updated: 4/28/2015 9:13:26 AM