Confused by cancer screening recommendations? Not sure where to go for cancer screenings in Queens? SHAREing & CAREing can help!
Keep in mind that all of the following recommendations apply only to women with average risk factors for each kind of cancer. Your family history and your personal health history (including diet, weight, alcohol use, and smoking habits) may lead your doctor to determine you have a higher than average risk, which might mean additional or earlier screenings.
If you have additional questions, need help covering the cost of cancer screenings, or speak English as a second language and need translating help, we are here for you. Learn more about our Patient Navigation services or contact us to discuss how we can assist you with cancer screenings in Queens County, including Astoria and Long Island City.
BREAST CANCER SCREENING
Starting at age 20, women should begin completing monthly breast self-exams, and should expect to receive a clinical breast exam during gynecological visits.
This is the trickiest age for any cancer screening, but we’re here to help! Professional organizations across the U.S. offer varying mammography recommendations for this age range, due to an ongoing debate about the potential harm of “false positives” and unnecessary procedures for women in their 40s.
All reputable organizations agree, however, that women should be able to choose mammography annually if they agree with their doctor that early detection is worth the risk of a false positive, and that insurance should cover these screenings.
That said, some organizations—such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—still recommends annual mammograms for all women 40 and above. Others, like the American Academy of Family Physicians, suggests mammograms should be a personal choice up until age 49. The American Cancer Society recommends women choose with their doctor from age 40-44, and then receive annual screenings beginning at age 45.
Most organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend annual mammograms from 50-54. Others, including the American College of Physicians, recommend every two years—but again, all emphasize that annual screenings should be accessible and covered by insurance if you and your doctor choose to screen every year.
Most organizations recommend you receive mammograms every two years from age 55-64, with the option for a yearly mammogram if you and your doctor choose to do so.
After 65, most organizations suggest mammograms every two years, but recommend annual screening should be available if you and your doctor think more rigorous testing is right for you.
CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING
Starting at age 21, women should receive a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer.
From age 30-39, women have two choices: receive a combined Pap and HPV test every five years, or receive a Pap test only every three years. (Even if you received an HPV vaccine.)
Just as in their 30s, women should continue to receive a combined Pap and HPV test every five years, or receive a Pap test only every three years. (Even if you received an HPV vaccine.)
If you receive a non-cancer-related hysterectomy that removed the uterus and cervix, no further screening is needed.
If you’ve had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results for the last ten years, or a hysterectomy that removed the uterus and cervix (for reasons unrelated to cervical cancer), no further screenings are needed after age 65.
COLON CANCER SCREENING
Starting at age 50, all women should begin testing for colon cancer—the third-most common cancer for women in this age group. However, you’ll have several screening options to choose from, including highly effective colonoscopies, less-invasive (but potentially less accurate) fecal tests, and barium enemas.
Each screening test includes its own pros and cons, and require different screening schedules, but generally the less-invasive tests are needed more frequently. You and your doctor will decide together what testing methods are best for you.
LUNG CANCER TESTING
If you have a history of smoking, starting at age 55, your doctor may recommend yearly low-dose CT scans to screen for early lung cancer. This may apply if you currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years, and have what’s known as a “30 pack-year” history of smoking. This means the equivalent of smoking one pack per day for 30 years, which could also be smoking two packs per day for 15 years.
Not all health insurance covers lung cancer testing, but our patient navigators can help you find out in advance.
CANCER SCREENINGS AFTER AGE 75
After age 75, cancer screenings in general are no longer considered necessary, mostly due to the relative cost and benefit of treatment compared to average life expectancy. However, if you are in good health and would be willing to undergo treatment if cancers were to be detected, you and your doctor can decide to continue mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and lung cancer screenings based on your personal history and risk factors.