Dr. Karishma Kirti

Dr. Jitesh Rajpurohit

Surgical Oncologist

When Should People Get Screened for Cancer? | An Essential Guide

Cancer screening often feels like a daunting labyrinth, filled with medical jargon and unfamiliar procedures. But with the right information and guidance, you can navigate this maze with confidence.

In this blog, we will demystify what cancer screening is, why it matters, and the different types available.

Dr. Jitesh Rajpurohit, a renowned Surgical Oncologist from Mumbai, will be our torchbearer, illuminating the path and answering your questions about cancer screening.

A Closer Look at Cancer Screening

Cancer screening is essentially the process of detecting cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease.

It’s like a ‘pre-emptive strike’, aiming to identify cancer in its earliest stages when treatment can be most effective. So, why does cancer screening matter? Well, it’s simple—early detection can save lives.

The Big Players: Most Common Cancers in Men and Women

Understanding the most common types of cancer is the first step in our journey. For men, the leading contenders are lung cancer and colorectal cancer.

For women, breast cancer and cervical cancer take the top spots. These cancers, due to their prevalence, form the basis for most cancer screening recommendations.

Lung Cancer

One of the most lethal forms of cancer globally, lung cancer primarily affects heavy smokers. Other risk factors include a family history of the disease and exposure to carcinogens in the work environment.

If you fall into these categories, routine lung cancer screening is recommended.

The screening test typically involves a low-dose CT scan, especially for smokers over 50. This painless, non-invasive procedure provides a detailed image of your lungs, enabling doctors to detect potentially cancerous abnormalities.

It’s crucial to discuss your individual risk factors with your healthcare provider, who can guide you on when and how often to get screened.

Also, Read- Prevention of Lung cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Next on our list is colorectal cancer, a common malignancy affecting both men and women. As per the American Cancer Society (ACS), individuals at average risk should commence routine screening for colorectal cancer at age 45.

If there’s a family history of colorectal cancer, screening becomes even more critical and may need to start earlier. Again, your cancer surgeon can help decide the best course of action for you.

The Most Common Types of Cancers in Men and Women

When discussing cancer, it’s essential to understand the most common types that afflict men and women, as they have different risk factors and screening guidelines. Here they are:

  • In Men:
  1. Lung Cancer
  2. Colorectal Cancer
  • In Women:
  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Cervical Cancer

Let’s discuss each in more detail, along with their screening protocols.

Lung Cancer: Risks, Screenings, and Early Detection

Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Risk factors include:

  •   Heavy, long-term tobacco smoking
  •   Exposure to secondhand smoke
  •   Family history of lung cancer
  •   Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens

For those in high-risk categories, such as heavy smokers over 50, a low-dose CT scan is recommended annually.

This screening tool uses lower amounts of radiation than a standard CT scan and can detect small nodules or masses in the lungs, which could indicate the early stages of lung cancer.

Remember, early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment. If lung cancer is detected in its early stages, the survival rate can dramatically increase, with some studies showing five-year survival rates of up to 90% if caught early.

Colorectal Cancer: The Importance of Routine Screening

Colorectal cancer, affecting both the colon and rectum, can have multiple risk factors:

  •   Age: The majority of cases occur in people aged 50 and older
  •   A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  •   Inflammatory bowel diseases
  •   A diet high in red and processed meats
  •   Obesity
  •   Smoking

The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. However, those with a family history may need to start earlier and screen more frequently.

Several screening options exist:

  • Stool Tests: These are typically done annually and include fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), and stool DNA tests.

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This is usually done every five years and involves a doctor using a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer in the rectum and lower third of the colon.


  • Colonoscopy: This procedure, done every ten years, involves a doctor using a longer tube to examine the entire colon. During a colonoscopy, polyps can also be removed.

Breast Cancer: Empowering Women Through Screening

Breast cancer is a significant concern for women, with risks increasing with age, family history of breast cancer, certain genetic mutations, and other factors.

Regular screenings are suggested for women starting at age 40, or even earlier for those with high risks.

Two main screening methods exist:

  • Clinical Breast Examination: Performed by a healthcare provider, this involves a physical examination of the breasts and underarm areas for any lumps or other physical changes

  • Mammogram: This is a specific type of X-ray image of the breasts, which can reveal early signs of cancer even before physical symptoms develop. Women should have annual or biennial mammograms starting at age 45, depending on their risk factors.

Cervical Cancer: Catching It Early

Cervical cancer, often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), is a major health concern for women. Regular screenings are recommended for sexually active women, with specific guidelines based on age:

  • Women aged 21-29: a Pap test every three years
  • Women aged 30-65: a Pap test and an HPV test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years

The Pap test (or Pap smear) checks for precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix, while the HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

Wrapping up

cancer screening is a vital tool for early detection and improved outcomes. This comprehensive guide provides essential information, but individual needs can vary greatly.

It’s always best to consult with an expert surgeon to determine the most appropriate screening regimen based on your personal risk factors.

Remember, knowledge and prevention are your best weapons in the fight against cancer.

So if you have any doubts related to cancer or want to discuss any of your symptoms, feel free to reach out. Our experts are always here to assist.