Screening Guidelines

The following is a list of screening guidelines for some common cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, certain screening tests may be recommended only for those who have a high risk for certain cancers. Always discuss with your healthcare provider which screenings are right for you.
Breast Cancer

For women at average risk of breast cancer

  • Women between the ages of 25 and 40 should have an annual clinical breast examination.
  • Women 40 and older should have an annual mammogram in addition to an annual clinic breast examination.
  • All women should consider performing a monthly breast self-examination.

For women at high risk

High risk includes family history, history of atypical hyperplasia, history of mantle radiation, genetic predisposition.

  • Clinical breast examination every six months.
  • Annual mammograms starting no later than 10 years before the age of the earliest diagnosis in the family but not earlier than age 25 and not later than age 40.
  • Consider supplemental imaging for women with dense breast tissue.
  • Consider alternating between a breast MRI and a mammogram every six months.
Cervical Cancer

Recommendation for average-risk patients

Cervical cancer screening recommendations in average-risk patients is generally based on the patient's age.

Under 21

No screening for cervical cancer. Complete HPV vaccine series if not already received.

Age 21 to 29 

HPV testing and Pap test every three years.

Age 30 to 65

Pap test recommended every three years if tests are normal. Patients should be screened even if they report sexual abstinence.

Over 65 years 

The decision to discontinue screening in average-risk patients depends on the patient's prior results, life expectancy and preferences in a shared decision-making discussion.

Colorectal Cancer

Recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening

  • For the general population, individuals should have their initial colonoscopy screening at age 45.
  • Individuals who have a family history of colon cancer in a first-degree relative should begin colonoscopy screening at age 40 OR 10 years prior to the age the family member was diagnosed, which ever is earlier.

If you are not sure about when you should begin screening colonoscopy, talk to your doctor, especially if you have a strong family history of multiple cancers or cancer at a young age.

Lung Cancer

Who should get lung cancer screening?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises that people who smoke be screened every year with low-dose CT (LDCT). Or they should talk with their provider about yearly screening if they meet all of the following:

  • Are age 50 to 80. (Check with your insurance plan, because some plans have age limits); and
  • Are current smokers or have quit in the last 15 years; and
  • Have a 20 pack-year history of smoking (a pack-year is one pack of cigarettes per day per year).

The USPSTF says that screening can stop once a person has not smoked for 15 years or has a health problem that limits their life expectancy or their ability to have lung surgery.

If you have a history of smoking, talk with your healthcare provider about whether yearly lung cancer screening might be right for you.

Prostate Cancer

Who should get prostate cancer screening?

National Comprehensive Cancer Network advises that men at average risk be screened for prostate cancer beginning at age 50, as needed. Begin at 45 if you have a higher than average risk. Begin at 40 if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer before age 65.

Talk to your provider about the pros and cons of screening.

Skin Cancer

What to look for

Skin cancer can be treated with more success if it’s found early. The way to find skin cancer early is with regular skin exams. This means having a healthcare provider check your skin and also checking your skin at home regularly.

First, check if any moles fit the ABCDE rules. These rules can help you tell if a mole should be checked by your healthcare provider. The ABCDE rules are:

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole doesn't match the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are not well-defined or are ragged or irregular.
  • Color. The mole has different colors in it. It may be tan, brown, black, red or other colors. Or it may have areas that seem to have lost color.
  • Diameter. The mole is bigger than 6 millimeters across, about the size of a pencil eraser. But some melanomas can be smaller.
  • Evolving. A mole looks different from the rest and changes in size, shape or color.

Other signs and symptoms that may be skin cancer

  • A mole or skin mark that itches or is tender or painful.
  • A mole or skin mark that oozes, bleeds or becomes crusty.
  • A mole or skin mark that looks different from your other moles or skin marks.
  • A sore that doesn't heal.
  • A mole or sore that becomes red or swells at its edges or beyond.

If any moles or skin marks fit the ABCDEs or other signs of skin cancer, see your healthcare provider right away.

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For any cancer diagnosis,

the Overlake Cancer Center can help.

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Should a cancer screening reveal cancer, the Overlake Cancer Center provides the latest and most advanced methods of cancer treatment in collaboration with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.


Overlake's cancer program is distinguished by state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, leading-edge treatments and a skilled, interdisciplinary staff, which includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, dedicated cancer surgeons, and oncology nurse navigators.


Overlake partners with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (FHCC), which provides patients the care and expertise of both organizations at Overlake on the Eastside. FHCC is recognized as the Pacific Northwest’s top cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report for more than 10 years. It is Washington’s only National Cancer Institute-certified Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of just 51 nationwide.

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