Which cancer screenings should you undergo?

February 3, 2023 Providence Cancer Team


In this article:

  • When cancer is detected earlier, it’s more likely that it can be cured.

  • We list several different types of cancer, their risk factors and screening recommendations.

  • Screening recommendations often change over time, which is why it’s important to see your doctor regularly to determine your cancer risk.

In 2022, there were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed, and 609,360 cancer deaths in the United States. While these statistics are sobering, it’s important to note that many of those diagnosed were able to successful cure their disease. Often, that’s because cancer survivors caught the cancer early.

This National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month, take a look at your age and history to determine your risk of cancer and which screenings are appropriate for you right now. Many insurance plans pay fully for screenings, and even if you do have an out-of-pocket cost, it’s certainly less expensive to screen for a disease than to treat one.

Cervical cancer 

The positive news is that cervical cancer is nearly always preventable with timely screenings and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The American Cancer Society recommends an HPV test every five years, while the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests a Pap smear every three years.

Read more.

Colon cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, if colon cancer is found earlier, the chances of survival for cancer patients are upwards of 90%. A colonoscopy is the most common form of colon cancer screening, although a few other screening options, including stool testing, exist for those who may feel uncomfortable undergoing the procedure. Other healthy lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet and healthy weight, physical activity and quitting smoking can help decrease the risk of colon cancer. While the overall incidence of colon cancer has declined in recent years, the rate has increased among people younger than 50. As a result, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that screening start at age 45, rather than age 50, as previously recommended.

Read more.

Prostate cancer

As men approach the age of 50, their risk of prostate cancer increases. There are two main methods for screening — a rectal examination and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. While the American Urology Association recommends annual screening between ages 55 and 69, some doctors and researchers are concerned that the PSA test detects slow-growing cancers that don’t need treatment. The best option is to talk to your doctor or health care provider about whether screening is the right choice for you.

Read more.

Lung cancer

Unfortunately, lung cancer often goes undetected before it’s in a very advanced stage. Doctors recommend regular lung cancer screenings using a simple computerized tomography (CT) scan for people over 50 who have a history of smoking. With advances in screening technology, doctors can see the lungs before deciding if a biopsy is necessary.

Read more.

Breast cancer

The most common breast cancer screening option is a mammogram, which the American Cancer Society recommends starting annually between age 40 and 44. Recent advances in genetic testing and screening tests have also offered incredible insight into patients’ medical histories and how likely they are to develop breast cancer. Doctors have far more insight into various types of breast cancer, and more importantly, how to successfully treat patients.

Read more.

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is another type of cancer that is hard to detect at first. Yet, early detection leads to a much greater survival rate. The type of screening you get depends on if you are at high risk for ovarian cancer or not, so keep up with your regular annual exams.

Read more.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the recommended cancer screenings, you’re not alone. That’s why Providence offers a convenient chart that helps you keep track of all the recommended cancer screenings, as well other important health screenings. You can also ask your doctor for an update on what you should be receiving.


Find a doctor

If you want to learn more about proactive health screenings, you can find a Providence primary care provider using our provider directory.

Download the Providence App

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app.

Related resources 

How to spot and treat thyroid disease

Research advancements at Providence Cancer Institute

Lung cancer detection comes to Olympia


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.



About the Author

The Providence Cancer Team is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date insights about treatments, prevention, care and support available. We know cancer diagnoses strain you both mentally and physically, and we hope to provide a small piece of hope to you or your loved ones who are fighting the cancer battle with useful and clinically-backed advice.

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