The Lifesaving Importance of Preventive Screenings for Cancer

Cancer. The word that strikes fear into hearts. Whether it’s touched you, a precious family member, or a beloved friend, cancer may have impacted you, causing life-changing concern and loss. 

According to a study published in BMJ Oncology, from 1990-2019, cancers among those 50 years old and younger increased by 79% in much of the world. 

Fortunately, early detection of cancer can have a huge impact on your chances of survival. 

Preventive screenings for cancer—such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears—offer powerful tools in early detection, greatly improving the chances of successful treatment and improved survival rates. 

Read on to discover more about these screenings and when and how often you should get them.  


Screening 1. Mammograms: Guarding Against Breast Cancer 

A mammogram, or simple X-ray of the breast, can detect early changes in breast tissue before they can be felt as a lump. Early detection can often mean less aggressive treatment and better outcomes. 

Here are mammogram guidelines to follow: 

When & how often:

  • Women aged 40-75 should get mammograms every 1-2 years, depending on her personal history and institution’s guidelines. Beyond the age of 75, the decision to continue mammograms should be made jointly with her physician.

Risk factors that may necessitate screening as early as age 30:

  • Family history of breast cancer.
  • Mutations of either of the two BRCA (which stands for BReast CAncer) genes, which produce proteins that help repair damaged DNA. Mutations in these genes can hinder this repair process, leading to a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
  • Prior radiation treatments to the chest.


Screening 2. Colonoscopies: Ensuring Colon Health

During a colonoscopy, a doctor inspects the inner lining of your large intestine to identify and potentially remove abnormal growths, using a thin, flexible tube and camera. 

Here are colonoscopy guidelines to follow: 

When & how often:

  • Typically begin at age 45 for those at average risk, until the age of 75, every 10 years if no polyps are found. If your doctor finds anything abnormal, they will discuss more frequent screenings with you. 

Risk factors that may necessitate earlier screening:

  • A family history of colorectal cancer or specific kinds of polyps
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or specific kinds of polyps
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • History of radiation to the abdomen

Other factors influencing screening frequency: 

  • Conditions like Crohn’s disease, a history of polyps, or previous findings can affect the recommended interval between screenings. Your doctor will discuss this with you. 


Screening 3. Pap Smears: Navigating Cervical Health

A Pap smear, or cervical smear, aims to identify abnormal cells in the cervix which could indicate conditions like cervical cancer. To do this, a doctor collects cells from the cervix and examines them under a microscope. This test is often combined with a screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can lead to cervical cancer in some women.

Here are Pap smear guidelines to follow:

When & how often: 

  • Start at age 21, regardless of the age at which sexual activity began. From 21-29 years of age, a woman should have a Pap smear every 3 years. From ages 30-65, a woman should get a standalone Pap test every 3 years, or a combined HPV test / Pap smear (called a co-test) every 5 years.

Risk factors that influence the scheduling of screening:

  • Presence of high-risk HPV strains, previous cervical complications, or certain immune system issues

It’s essential to consult with your doctor to understand and determine your best screening schedule based on your own individual risks and medical history.


Get Screened at Hoag Today

Don’t wait to get screened. If you realize you’re behind on one (or all) of your preventive screenings for cancer, schedule an appointment today at one of Hoag’s many convenient locations

Or for even more convenience, join our membership program, Hoag Compass, to have one of our Care Coordinators schedule a same day or next-day appointment for you.  

As the top-rated hospital in Orange County, you can have confidence you’re in good hands. And if you need any treatment after one of your screenings, Hoag’s state-of-the-art equipment and exceptional care will ensure you have the best possible outcome. 

Plus, cancer screenings are covered by most insurance plans. Check with your doctor or insurance provider for more information. 

Early cancer detection can truly mean the difference between life and death. Schedule your screening today.