Age 21: Pap test for cervical cancer. Doctors recommend this screening every three years until age 30 and then every five years, along with Human papillomavirus (HPV) co-testing, ending at age 65 if you’re not at high risk for cervical cancer. Discuss concerns with your OB-GYN at your annual exam. “If there’s a change in sexual status, the patient should have an interim visit to her gynecologist and repeat testing as she enters into a new relationship,” says Christine Pellegrino, MD, medical oncologist at MidHudson Regional Hospital and Westchester Medical Center, members of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).
Age 40, 45-50: Mammography for breast cancer. “The exact age to begin has been a topic of controversy over the past decade,” Dr. Pellegrino admits. “Personally, I believe that mammography should begin at age 40 and repeat annually, because early detection and diagnosis are key.” Different medical groups have different guidelines. That said, the starting age should be an informed and shared decision between you and your doctor that weighs benefits and drawbacks. “Women at average risk of breast cancer should be offered screening at age 40,” says Zoe Weinstein, MD, breast surgeon at HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus in Kingston and MidHudson Regional Hospital, members of WMCHealth. She adds: “Women with a family history of breast cancer before menopause may require screening before 40. Women with increased breast cancer risk because of late menopause, early onset of menses, prior biopsy, dense breasts or use of hormones may require breast ultrasound in addition to mammography.” According to Dr. Weinstein, there is no age cut off for annual screenings.
Age 50: Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. “At this age, it’s recommended that women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer get a colonoscopy at least every 10 years,” says Michael Moscowitz, MD, general surgeon at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus and MidHudson Regional Hospital. “In lieu of a colonoscopy, it is possible to have a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or a Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year, to look for traces of blood in the stool, but a colonoscopy should be done if test results are positive.” Only a colonoscopy allows direct visualization of the colon to guide and localize treatment, Dr. Moscowitz explains. If you have a history of polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease such as colitis or Crohn’s, you may need earlier or more frequent screenings.
As we age: “Cardiac disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease and osteopenia/osteoporosis are all important to be aware of, and monitored for, as we get older,” says Dr. Pellegrino.
Women’s Health at MidHudson Regional Hospital:
Oncology Support Program at HealthAlliance Hospitals: