Many of us know that making healthy lifestyle choices and getting recommended vaccines can help lower the risk or EVEN prevent some kinds of cancer.

Cancer screenings, which are also cancer prevention strategies, check your body for cancer, even if you have no signs or symptoms. There are different kinds of screenings including:

  • A physical exam and personal history
  • Lab tests
  • Imaging tests
  • Genetic tests (these tests look for changes in the genes that may indicate that a person has or is at risk of having a particular disease or condition).microscope with hands adding slide for test

Routine screening tests can help to find breast, cervical, colorectal (colon), and other cancers early, when they may be easier to treat or cure. Many expert organizations provide guidelines for different screenings, but it’s important to talk with your doctor about your personal situation. There are benefits and risks for most screenings, and certain tests may be recommended only for people who are considered high risk for a particular cancer. Together you and your healthcare provider can decide which screenings are appropriate for you.

Remember! When your doctor recommends a screening test for you, it does not necessarily mean they believe you have cancer. Screening tests are used in people with average risk and no symptoms of cancer. Usually these tests, if abnormal, require additional testing to definitively diagnose cancer. If you have symptoms or increased risk based on your personal or family history, you may need to start screening at an earlier age than is typically recommended or may need specialized testing.

Questions to ask your doctor about cancer screenings

  1. Are any cancer screening tests recommended for me? Which ones?
  2. Can we talk about the test’s potential risks compared to its benefits?
  3. When should I start getting cancer screenings? And how often?
  4. What is the purpose of the test?
  5. What happens during the test?
  6. How long does it take to get test results?
  7. What happens if the results are not normal?

Screening & Prevention Resources

Centers for Disease Prevention & Control, How to Prevent Cancer or Find It Early: Screening 

National Cancer Institute, Cancer Screening

Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Screenings and Prevention

American Cancer Society, hundreds of articles on screening and prevention