Cancer screening guidelines for adults

Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend what cancer screenings are appropriate for you, as screening guidelines may vary depending on your personal health and family history. Here are the general cancer screening guidelines for adults from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


There is no true consensus on when screening should begin for breast cancer. The CDC recommends that women aged 40-49 begin talking to their healthcare provider about when to get screened for breast cancer. Women aged 50-74 with average risk should get mammograms every two years. If you have a family history of breast cancer or a genetic tendency, you may need an MRA in addition to a mammogram. 


Men and women aged 45-75 should be screened regularly for colorectal cancer. According to the CDC, there are three tests that providers use to screen this:

  1. A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, which checks stool for hidden blood and is performed yearly
  2. A flexible sigmoidoscopy, in which the walls of the rectum and lower part of the colon are inspected and is performed every three years
  3. A colonoscopy, which should be performed every 10 years. Colonoscopies are also used for diagnostic purposes.


Women should start being screened for cervical cancer around age 21 and continue being screened with a Pap test every three years between 21 and 29. You may also get an HPV test during these years to screen for human papillomavirus (HPV). After age 30, a Pap test and an HPV test should be done every five years (or a Pap test every three years).

If a test is abnormal or shows cell changes, a healthcare provider will probably request getting another pap done sometime between six months and a year after the initial test.


If you’re at a high risk of lung cancer because of smoking or other issues, your healthcare provider might recommend that you be screened for lung cancer.


At age 50, men should talk to their healthcare providers to determine whether screening for prostate cancer is right for them. Men who have a family history that puts them at risk for prostate cancer should talk to a healthcare provider beginning at age 45.

For ovarian, prostate, and skin cancer, screenings haven’t yet been shown to reduce deaths, and your healthcare provider might recommend against screenings if you don’t have symptoms or a family history indicating that you might be at risk. For some forms of cancer, there are self-examinations you can perform at home with more regularity.

If you have any questions about cancer or cancer screenings, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


“Screening Tests.” Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC. May 19, 2022.

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