The earlier you catch cancer, the better

Keeping up with your cancer screening can be a lifesaving choice. Screenings help detect cancer before you have symptoms. And in some cases, they can catch signs of cancer before it ever develops.

Over the past few decades, cancer-related deaths have continued to go down. The American Cancer Society says this is in part due to early detection. Cancers that are found early have less time to grow or spread. This often means less-invasive cancer treatment and a better survival rate.

In addition to cancer screenings, Baylor Scott & White Health offers genetic counseling to help assess your risk of developing certain types of cancers or other conditions.

Breast cancer screening

A screening mammogram uses low-dose X-rays to provide images of your breasts. It helps find changes in your breast tissue before you can feel or see them. As a result, screening mammograms can catch breast cancer sooner.  The American Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate for cancer that hasn't spread outside the breast is 99%. That's why early detection from a  breast cancer screening, like a mammogram, is so important.

Screening for women with an average risk

Ages 40 – 45

Many cancer screening agencies recommend beginning mammograms between ages 40-45. Talk to your physician about when you should schedule your screening mammogram. Screening mammograms are recommended every two years.

Ages 45 – 54

Get a mammogram every two years.

Ages 55 and up

Continue yearly mammograms or talk to your doctor about screening every other year.

Screening for women with a high risk

For women at high risk, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms and breast MRIs, usually starting when you are 30.

Lung cancer screening

If you have a high risk of lung cancer, a quick CT scan could help detect cancer sooner. Yearly low-dose CT (LDCT) screening offers a chance to diagnose lung cancer before you ever develop symptoms. In its earliest stages, lung cancer has more treatment options.

An LDCT scan typically takes less than five minutes. It allows a radiologist on the medical staff to look for any areas in the lungs that might indicate cancer. If a lung nodule is found, we have a process in place to quickly connect you with the care you need.

You may qualify for LDCT screening if:

  • You don't have any symptoms of lung cancer.
  • You're between 50 and 80 years old.
  • You currently smoke or stopped smoking in the last 15 years.
  • You have a smoking history of 20 pack years (multiply the number of packs per day by the number of years you smoked).

Learn more about our lung screening program

Colon cancer screening
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When found early, colorectal cancer (including colon cancer) is highly treatable and beatable. You have several options for colon cancer screening, but the most common screening for colon cancer is colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy uses a camera attached to a flexible tube to view the rectum and the colon. This screening not only helps find cancer, but it can also stop cancer before it even starts. If your doctor finds polyps in the colon, they can be removed during a colonoscopy so that cancer doesn’t develop.

Learn more about early detection of colorectal cancer

Screening colonoscopy guidelines

For those with an average risk of colon cancer, the following is recommended:

  • Screening every 10 years starting between the ages of 45-50
  • Talk to your doctor about continuing screening after age 75

If you have risk factors for colon cancer, talk to your primary care doctor about screening for colon cancer sooner or more often.

Guidelines for other visual exams of the colon

If you choose a colon cancer check other than colonoscopy, the American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Virtual colonoscopy, which uses a CT scan of the colon, every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which only views the lower part of your colon, every five years
Guidelines for stool-based cancer tests

If your doctor recommends a stool-based test, the American Cancer Society guidelines include:

  • A fecal immunochemical test, which screens for blood in the stool, every year
  • A guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, which also looks for blood in the stool, every year
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test, which can detect genetic mutations within cells in the stool, every three years
  • If a stool-based test shows possible cancer, you should have a colonoscopy.

Skin cancer check

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed type of cancer today. There are different types of skin cancer, but early detection is important for all of them. Especially if you have risk factors for skin cancer, you may choose to have a yearly skin check with your dermatologist.

During a skin cancer check, your doctor will do a visual exam from head to toe to look for any suspicious areas on your skin. If there is an area of concern, your doctor may do a biopsy. This procedure takes a sample of the skin and sends it to the lab for testing.

Skin cancer checks look at moles and other areas of pigmentation for changes in:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Size

Find a dermatologist

Prostate cancer check

Approximately one out of eight men will have prostate cancer during their lifetime. But if prostate cancer is caught in its early stages, the American Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.

Some men may choose to have a prostate specific antigen test (PSA test) to screen for prostate cancer. This blood test measures the levels of PSA in your blood, which may be higher if you have prostate cancer. Because a PSA test isn’t right for every man, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits and the risks before you choose to get screened for prostate cancer using this method.

Digital rectal exam

The American Cancer Society says a digital rectal exam is sometimes included as part of your prostate cancer screening. Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to check for any lumps or hard spots on your prostate. While it may be uncomfortable, this exam only takes a few minutes.

Prostate-specific antigen test screening guidelines

After talking to your doctor about your options, the American Cancer Society guidelines recommend the first PSA test at:

  • Age 50 for men who have an average risk
  • Age 45 for African American men or men with a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before 65
  • Age 40 for men who have multiple first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer before 65

Cervical cancer screening

Currently, two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. Both tests can be done in a doctor's office using a speculum, a tool used to to be able to see inside the vagina and the cervix. The doctor will collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it and send to a lab for testing.

When to get screened

Ages 21 to 29 years old

Most women should start receiving Pap tests at age 21. If your tests results are within normal ranges, your physician may tell you to wait three years until your next test.

Ages 30 to 65 years old

Talk to your doctor about which testing option may be right for you. Some physicians may only recommend a Pap test or HPV test, while others recommend both. The time in between tests may vary based on your test results.

Older than 65 years old

Your doctor may tell you that you no longer need to be tested if you've had normal test results for several years or if you've had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy

Pap test (or Pap smear)

This exam looks for precancer cells, also known as cell changes, on the cervix that could become cervical cancer if they are not treated.

HPV test

This exam looks for the human papillomavirus, the type of virus that can cause cell changes.