Tests to help catch cancer in its earliest stage are credited with the recent drop in the number of cancer deaths. That's the good news. However, there is a new concern that a government survey also finds a majority of Americans still don't know when to get tested for three types of cancer including breast cancer.
"We know that mammography screening and colorectal screening and cervical cancer screening can catch cancer at an early enough stage that we can detect it early and help lower the chances of your dying of the disease," said Christine Berg, of the National Cancer Institution.
Reminder: The American Cancer Society recommends that women get their first mammogram at age 40 followed by yearly screenings after that. However, women with an increased risk for developing breast cancer may need to begin sooner.
Next on the screening list: Cervical cancer. Current guidelines call for women to get their first pap smear by the time they are 21 or three years after they become sexually active. Then, women need a pap smear every year until they turn 30. After age 30, your doctor may decide you can be checked for cervical cancer every other year.
The third screening is one for women and men. Everyone needs that first colon cancer screening by age 50, sooner if there is a family history. How often you repeat that testing after age 50 may vary depending on the kind of test you had and the results of the test. You may not need to go back for 10 years after that first test and 50 is the magic age for that.
Of course these are just guidelines, your doctor should know your individual risk factors because that could change when and how often you are tested.