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