Screen Time: Cancer Tests You Need Now
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Screen Time: Cancer Tests You Need Now

Cancer rates in men and women are going down, says Elizabeth Ward, PhD, of the American Cancer Society. But this isn't all good news: Some of the drop is probably due to fewer people having recommended cancer-screening tests. Screening is your best chance to catch some conditions early, so ask your physician which tests you need in order to stay healthy. Then schedule appointments for them ASAP.

  • Skin Cancer Screening
    The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an annual full-body skin cancer screening by a dermatologist. Do self-checks regularly and report any suspicious changes to your doctor. In addition, be sure to use plenty of sun protection.
  • Pap Test
    Have a regular Pap smear every year or the newer liquid-based type every two years. Once you turn 30 and have had three normal tests in a row, you can get a Pap every three years unless you've switched sexual partners. (Women should start having Paps about three years after becoming sexually active but no later than age 21.)
  • Mammogram
    Every year, starting at age 40. You also need to have a doctor-performed manual breast examination at least every three years in your 20s and 30s and annually after age 40.
  • Colorectal Screening
    It depends on the test: Some options include a high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test every year; a sigmoidoscopy every five years with fecal occult testing every three years; or a colonoscopy every 10 years. Blood tests can start younger, but at age 50 ask which other screening exam is best for you.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2009.

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