Cancer Screening Guidelines | MedStar Health
A nurse talks with a husband and wife in a clinical setting.
Cancer screenings enable healthcare providers at MedStar Health to catch cancer in the early stages, when the disease is most treatable. Women and men at high risk for these diseases may need earlier or more frequent screenings, so please check with your doctor.

Below is an overview of some familiar screenings, but be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider what screenings you should have based on your family and personal health history.


Screenings are recommended for all women

  • Breast exam by a medical provider (every 3 years for women ages 20 to 39 and every year after age 40)

  • Annual mammograms and breast exams by a medical provider starting between the ages of 40 to 45, or younger if at high risk*


Screenings are recommended for all women age 21 and older, or upon becoming sexually active

  • Periodic Pap smears with frequency based on age (after three normal tests, a woman may need smears less frequently)


Screenings are recommended for all adults age 50 and older, or younger if at high risk*.

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or

  • Fecal occult blood test every year, or

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or

  • Double-contrast barium enema every five years


A screening is recommended if:

  • You are between the ages of 50 and 77  (some insurances may cover up to 80)

  • 20 pack-year smoking history (A smoking history equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or smoking two packs a day for 10 years)

  • Current smoker or a former smoker who quit smoking less than 15 years ago

  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer, such as shortness of breath, coughing up blood, unexplained fevers, chills, or weight loss (a doctor can determine if another condition is causing these symptoms)

  • If you meet these risk factors, learn more about the screenings options


Screenings can be beneficial for men age 50 and older, or younger if at high risk*. The American Cancer Society suggests that men talk to their medical provider about the value of two tests:

  • Digital rectal exams

  • Prostate-specific antigen blood tests


Screenings are recommended for all adults age 20 and older.

  • Skin self-exams once a month

  • Skin exam by a medical provider every three years until age 39, and once a year beginning at age 40


Screenings are recommended for all adults.

  • Annual exam by a dentist or medical provider.

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