Screening Guidelines

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A technician using a 3D mammography machine on a patient

Starting at age 40, people at average risk for breast cancer should talk with their healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of getting a yearly mammogram.

Cancer screening is checking for cancer in people who do not have symptoms. Screenings can help find cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. Treating cancer early often means there’s a better chance of curing it. Screening also can save lives by lowering the chance of dying from cancer.

What is a cancer screening test? 

There are several kinds of screening tests. Screening can be done with blood tests, or with radiology (imaging) tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans. Screenings can also include procedures such as a colonoscopy, or sometimes a physical exam.  Cancer screenings have benefits and risks. Experts agree that for most people, screenings have more benefits than risks. 

When should I get screened?

The type of screening, when you start getting regular screening, and how often you get screened depend on your age. You also may have a different screening schedule if you’re at higher risk for cancer. You may be at higher risk if family members related to you by blood have a history of cancer. You also may be at higher risk if you have genetic changes (mutations). Other things also can affect your risk for cancer.

Who makes cancer screening recommendations?

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center recommendations are based on the opinions of our cancer experts. Other organizations also make screening recommendations. They include the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and other groups.

Cancer experts also recommend you have routine check-ups and a healthy lifestyle and diet. It’s also important to learn about the early signs of cancer.

You can learn more about when you should be screened, and the type of screening test we recommend. We have screening information for many types of cancer, including: