Cancer Screening for Women – The Need of the Hour

Cancer Screening for Women – The Need of the Hour

Cancer screening tests are designed to find cancer before there are any symptoms. Diagnosing cancer early increases the chances of cure. Effective screening tests are those that:

  • Find cancer early
  • Reduce the chance that someone who is screened regularly will die from the cancer
  • Have more potential benefits than harms

So, getting tested is something we should all do regardless of the inconvenience, particularly for those of us with a family history of certain types of cancers.

Breast Cancer Screening:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start screening mammograms after discussing the risks and benefits with their provider.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
  • Women ages 55 and older should get a mammogram every 2 years, with the choice to continue getting them every year.
  • Continue screening as long as the woman is in good health and expected to live 10 years or more.
  • A clinical breast exam (CBE), performed by a healthcare professional, is no longer recommended.
  • While monthly self-breast exams are no longer recommended, women should still be familiar with their normal breast tissue and report any changes in appearance, size, or feel of the tissue or nipples, or any nipple discharge to their doctor

Cervical Cancer Screening:

  • All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 25.
  • Women between the ages of 25 and 65 should have:
    • Primary HPV testing every 5 years. If this test is not available, you should be screened with co-testing, which is a combination of an HPV and Pap test. This should be done every 5 years. If HPV testing is not available, then a Pap test alone should be performed every three years.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical screenings that were normal should not be screened for cervical cancer
  • Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or precancer should not be screened.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group

Colon and Rectal Cancer Screening:

  • Most men and women over the age of 45-50 should undergo routine screening for colon and rectal cancer, until age 75
  • Tests that find polyps and cancer:
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
    • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
    • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
  • Tests that primarily test for cancer:
    • Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (FOBT), or
    • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) , or
    • Stool DNA test (sDNA), every 3 years



Written by

Dr. Praveena Voonna,
Medical Oncologist
Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Visakhapatnam