Don’t Skip These 5 Important Cancer Screenings in 2024

While annual checkups can seem bothersome, they are worthwhile and necessary, especially as we age. Cancer screenings, to be specific, can detect life-threatening health conditions at their earliest and most treatable stages. Add these appointments to your calendar sooner than later – your future self will thank you.


Preventive Cancer Screenings to Get in 2024

Schedule the following cancer screenings to stay healthy in the New Year and beyond:


1. Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Regular screening, beginning at 45, is key to detecting polyps or other abnormalities as early as possible.

A colonoscopy allows healthcare professionals to see inside your colon and rectum via a long, flexible tube equipped with a camera. If they find any polyps, a doctor may remove them during the procedure. On the other hand, if everything looks normal, your doctor may suggest getting another colonoscopy in 10 years. Still, the overall screening interval will depend on your individual and familial risk factors.

Colonoscopy is currently the most effective way to screen for colorectal cancer. However, less invasive procedures – like the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) – can also detect blood in the stool, a possible sign of colon cancer or polyps.

Colorectal cancer screenings may not sound like your idea of a fun time, but they can save your life. Don’t put it off. Schedule your colonoscopy or other recommended screening as directed by your doctor. Early detection is critical, giving you the best odds of successful treatment. Make this the year you commit to caring for your colon health.


2. Breast Cancer Screening

Getting regular breast cancer screenings should be at the top of your checklist, as they minimize the likelihood of succumbing to breast cancer by 65 percent.

  • Schedule your annual mammogram. This simple X-ray can find changes in breast tissue that may indicate cancer. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends mammography every year for women aged 50 to 69. In contrast, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual screening for women aged 50 to 54 and every one to two years for women aged 55 and older, depending on risk factors.
  • Do monthly self-exams. Checking your breasts for unusual lumps or changes in size or shape is one way to monitor your breast health between screenings. See your doctor right away if you notice anything suspicious.
  • Ask about genetic testing. If breast cancer runs in your family, you may want to ask about genetic counseling or testing for the BRCA gene mutation. Knowing your risk can help determine the best prevention and screening plan. Encourage other women in your family to do the same. Further reading: Genetic Testing for Cancer.

Screening may also include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound evaluations in patients with higher risk.


3. Lung Cancer Screening

If you’re between 50 and 80 years old and currently smoke or have stopped within the last 15 years, lung cancer screening should top your health checklist for 2024. Lung cancer is accountable for the majority of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., resulting in 127,070 confirmed fatalities in 2023.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung CT scans for high-risk individuals. Talk to an oncologist about getting a low-dose CT scan, also known as LDCT. This specialized X-ray detects lung cancer, often before symptoms develop. The earlier a lung tumor is caught, the higher the chances of successful treatment and survival.

Get your lungs checked and encourage others with a history of tobacco smoking or secondhand smoke exposure to do the same. Lung cancer screening saves lives, so don’t skip it.


4. Cervical Cancer Screening

Precancerous cervical cell changes occur due to some human papillomavirus (HPV) types. HPV and cervical cell changes do not cause immediate symptoms, but cervical screening tests, such as a Pap smear, can detect them before cervical cancer develops.

The general guidelines recommend getting a Pap smear every three years for women aged 21 to 65. Women aged 30 and older can undergo Pap testing every five years if they combine it with HPV testing. However, depending on your medical history and risk factors, a physician may recommend more frequent testing. Make that call to schedule your first-ever appointment, then follow your gynecologist’s advice regarding how often to undergo screening moving forward.

Also read: Five Signs of Cervical Cancer to Watch Out For


5. Prostate Cancer Screening

Getting screened for prostate cancer must be a priority for men, especially as they get older. The ACS recommends that men of average risk start discussing prostate cancer screening with their doctor at age 50. For African-American men or individuals with a family history of prostate cancer, screening should start at age 45.

The two main tests for prostate cancer screening are:

  • A prostate-specific antigen or PSA blood test measures the level of PSA in your blood. High levels could signal prostate cancer.
  • A digital rectal exam (DRE) is where a doctor examines your prostate gland through the rectum to feel for any abnormalities.

While prostate cancer screening was controversial in the past, recent studies demonstrate that annual screenings reduce the risk of detecting prostate cancer at a deadly stage by 80 percent. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors and when prostate cancer screening is right for you. While it is extremely rare, younger men between 15 and 40 years old can have prostate cancer, too.


Where to Find Cancer Screening Options in Your Area

Contact the American Cancer Society for information about cancer screening facilities near you. Other topics of interest available on their website include screening recommendations based on age and sex assigned at birth.


Roundup of 2024’s Must-Have Cancer Screenings

Prioritize your health and schedule these lifesaving screenings as soon as possible. Cancer cases affecting the colon, rectum, breast, lung, cervix, and prostate continue to rise, but they are all preventable and conquerable, especially when caught early. Take it from the millions who have lost loved ones to cancer – never not gamble with your health. Make that call and get screened.