The goal of cancer screening tests is twofold: Some can help prevent cancer by detecting precancerous tissue, and others can detect possible signs of cancer in its early stages before any symptoms develop and when treatment may be easier. However, not every screening test is recommended for everyone—sometimes the tests cause more harm than good because of the risks of false-positives. False-positives occur when results suggest there’s cancer when there really isn’t, resulting in unnecessary follow-up testing and treatment.
Certain factors—your personal orhistory of cancer or other health conditions and lifestyle choices like smoking, diet, and physical activity—can affect screening recommendations. The recommendations below are for people at average risk without symptoms except where noted.
Our advice is based largely on the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Talk with your doctor about which screenings are right for you.
This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.