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Cancer screening and early detection

Early detection of cancer can increase the chances for the successful treatment of some conditions. Common screening tests include mammography for breast cancer, cytology (Pap smear) for cervical cancer and colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. Look at our resources for the types of screening that you may want to discuss with your doctor.

Screening for prostate cancer: What you should know about the PSA test
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  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer: Risks and benefits, age 50-69

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Your risk of dying from breast cancer is slightly reduced if you have regular screening. However, regular screening increase your chance of a false positive result, a biopsy and having part or all of a breast removed unnecessarily.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer Screening video

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Women ages 50-74 should have a mammogram every 2 to 3 years, if they are not at high risk of breast cancer. Discuss with your doctor whether you should have a mammogram if you are over age 75.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast pain

    Mayo Clinic
    Breast pain affects many women and is often caused by hormone changes. Breast pain is unlikely a sign of breast cancer. Choose a well-fitting bra, try hot or cold compresses, relaxation and pain relievers. Speak to your doctor if the pain persists or gets worse over time.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Cervical cancer: Patient algorithm

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    A Pap test screens for cervical cancer. It recommended that sexually active women under the age of 70 have one every 3 years. Screening is not recommended for those older than 70 if your last 3 Pap tests were negative.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Cervical cancer: Patient FAQ

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends women over the age of 25 get a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer. This resource includes information about the Pap test and what an abnormal test result means.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Melanoma

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Prevent melanoma (skin cancer): avoid sunburns and tanning booths, cover your skin in the sun and use UV protection such as sunscreen. Some sun exposure is necessary to produce vitamin D. If you are at high risk for melanoma have regular checkups with a clinician.
  • Evidence Summary

    Screening for lung cancer

    Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2013)
  • Evidence Summary

    Screening for prostate cancer

    Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2013)
  • Web Resource Rating

    Uterine (endometrial) cancer

    Patient.co.uk
    Uterine cancer is most likely to occur in women in their 50s and 60s. If uterine cancer is found at an early stage, there is a good chance of a cure. Talk to your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding past menopause, bleeding between periods, or bleeding after sex.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for colorectal (bowel) cancer

    Patient.co.uk
    Symptoms of bowel cancer include bleeding from the rectum and change in bowel movements. Screening with tests such as the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and flexible sigmoidoscopy can detect cancer early when it is easier to treat. Details about these tests in this resource.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Mammogram screening guidelines

    Our Bodies, Ourselves
    The United States Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) recommends women over 40 talk to their doctor about the benefits and harms of getting a mammogram. Women between 50 and 74 should get a mammogram every two years. Check your local guidelines for more information.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer screening

    Health Link B.C.
    If you are between 50 and 74 years of age, you should have regular mammograms to test for breast cancer every 2-3 years. If you are over the age of 75, talk to your doctor before going for breast cancer screening.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Cervical Cancer: Screening

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    The US Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend that women over the age of 65 get screened for cervical cancer unless they are at high risk or have not been screened before. Cervical cancer screening is not recommended for women who have had a hysterectomy and removal of the cervix.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for lung cancer: Consumer fact sheet

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults between the ages of 55-80 who have been heavy smokers in the past 15 years be screened for lung cancer every year.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for cervical cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    You may be at a higher risk for cervical cancer if you have genital warts, HPV, a weak immune system, or other cancers in the anus or vulva. Talk to your doctor about your risk and your need for pap or HPV tests. Links in this resource to diagnosis & treatment information, as well as questions to ask your doctor.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Pap test

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Pap tests every 1-3 years are recommended for women over the age of 21 who have been sexually active. Talk to your doctor about whether you need a pap test if you are over age 69 or have had a hysterectomy. Learn about preparing for a pap test, the risks and results in this resource.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Colorectal cancer test recommendations

    Health Link B.C.
    Colorectal testing every 1-2 years is recommended for people between ages 50 and 74. Your doctor may recommend screening before age 50 and more often if you have an increased risk of this type of cancer (eg. family history of colon cancer, polyps or Crohn's disease).
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer screening

    UpToDate - patient information
    Breast cancer screening includes tests to find breast cancer at an early stage. The chance of dying from breast cancer has declined over the past few years, partly because of screening. This website reviews different types of screening as well as how often to go.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer screening: When should I start having mammograms?

    Health Link B.C.
    Use this decision aid to help understand your choices about breast cancer screening, including the risks and benefits of mammograms.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer: Patient algorithm

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends women between 50 and 74 years old who are not at high risk get screened for breast cancer every 2 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about screening options if you are at high risk or over 74 years old.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer: Patient FAQ

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    This resource includes frequently asked questions about breast cancer, including: Who is considered high risk? What are the harms associated with mammography? and Why is routine screening NOT recommended for women 40-49 years?
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer: Risks and benefits, age 70-74

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Your chances of dying from breast cancer can be lowered by having regular screening. There are risks related to mammograms however, including false positives, unnecessary biopsies or surgery.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for oral cancer: Consumer fact sheet

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    There is not enough evidence to know if the benefits of oral cancer screening outweigh the harms for people without symptoms. Reduce your risk of oral cancer: don't smoke and drink alcohol only in moderation. See a doctor if you have unusual lumps or bumps in your mouth or on your lips.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Detecting non-melanoma skin cancer

    Informed Health Online
    Skin changes are a normal part of aging. See your doctor if you have a new mole, growth or spot that hasn't healed after 4 to 8 weeks. This resource describes what to look for.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Routine ovarian cancer screening not beneficial

    Our Bodies, Ourselves
    Annual screening is not recommended for women at average risk for developing ovarian cancer, and may lead to false positive results. Instead, watch for physical changes like bloating or pelvic pain. Resource includes a short video.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for colorectal cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    The Canadian Cancer Society recommends men and women over age 50 have a stool test at least every 2 years to test for colorectal cancer. You are at higher risk if you have had this cancer, benign polyps or inflammatory bowel disease or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening for breast cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Women aged 50-69 should have a mammogram to test for breast cancer every two years. If you are over 70, talk to your doctor to decide if you should continue. If breast cancer runs in your family, you may need more frequent tests. This resource includes questions to ask your healthcare team.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Providing guidance on lung cancer screening to patients and physicians

    American Lung Association
    Quit smoking to prevent lung cancer. Chest X-rays should not be used to diagnose lung cancer. Low-dose CT screening should only be used for certain patients. Your doctor will tell you if you should be screened.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Digital mammography: Is newer always better?

    National Women’s Health Network
    Film and digital mammograms are not very different from each other. Both are just as accurate at detecting breast cancer.
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    Medication for the risk reduction of primary breast cancer in women

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    Tamoxifen and raloxifene can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but have dangerous side-effects including increased risk of blood clots, cataracts and other cancers. Talk to your doctor about whether you are at risk of breast cancer and the best ways to reduce your risk.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Benefits and risks of screening tests

    Informed Health Online
    Be aware of the benefits and risks of screening tests. Talk to your doctor to find out what kind of screening is right for you.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Prostate cancer screening: Should you get a PSA test?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps men decide on whether or not to have a prostate cancer screening test by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Prostate cancer screening: Should you get a PSA test?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps men decide on whether or not to have a prostate cancer screening test by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women at higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer to decide on whether or not to have a breast cancer gene test by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast Cancer Screening and Dense Breasts: What Are My Options?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women with dense breasts considering options for breast cancer screening decide on whether to get a mammogram only or get an MRI or ultrasound with the mammogram by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast Cancer Screening: When Should I Start Having Mammograms?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women with average risk for breast cancer to decide whether or not to start mammograms at age 40 or 50 by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women at higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer to decide on whether or not to have a breast cancer gene test by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Breast Cancer Screening and Dense Breasts: What Are My Options?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women with dense breasts considering options for breast cancer screening decide on whether to get a mammogram only or get an MRI or ultrasound with the mammogram by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Breast Cancer Screening: When Should I Start Having Mammograms?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women with average risk for breast cancer to decide whether or not to start mammograms at age 40 or 50 by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Colon cancer: Which screening test should I have?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps people 50 and older who have a normal risk for colon cancer to decide on which screening test to get. It compares the benefits, risks and side effects of the stool test, which can be done at home, to other procedures done at a hospital or clinic.
  • Web Resource Rating

    BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing.

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps people considering genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 decide on whether or not to get tested by comparing the benefits, risks and side effects of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Colon cancer: Which screening test should I have?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps people 50 and older who have a normal risk for colon cancer to decide on which screening test to get. It compares the benefits, risks and side effects of the stool test, which can be done at home, to other procedures done at a hospital or clinic.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing.

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps people considering genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 decide on whether or not to get tested by comparing the benefits, risks and side effects of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Hodgkin lymphoma in adults

    UpToDate - patient information
    Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the body's lymphatic system. The most common symptom is a painless, swollen lymph node in the neck. Treatments include radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cysts

    Mayo Clinic
    Breast cysts are common. Your doctor might recommend tests to make sure that the cysts are not cancerous. If the cysts are causing pain, try a well-fitting bra, warm or cool compresses, or over-the-counter pain medication if necessary. Your doctor might recommend aspiration to empty the cysts.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast lump: Early evaluation is essential

    Mayo Clinic
    Breast lumps are common. Inform your doctor if you find a new lump, if a lump changes over time or causes pain, or if you notice changes in your nipple. Tests such as a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI may be recommended. You may also need a biopsy.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer guide to diagnosis and treatment

    UpToDate - patient information
    Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in the US. The death rate has declined, partly due to increased screening and improved treatment. When found and treated early it is often curable. This website gives information about diagnosing and treating breast cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer

    UpToDate - patient information
    A family history of breast or ovarian cancer can increase your risk of getting the disease. Consider genetic counseling and testing if you are at high risk. Women with BRCA gene mutations are often advised to have more frequent cancer screening.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding lung cancer early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Know the symptoms of lung cancer (details in this resource) and get checked regularly. Early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment. Current research is exploring benefits of using CT scans vs chest x-rays.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Do you need a colonoscopy?

    Berkeley Wellness
    It is recommended that you get screened for colorectal cancer if you are 50 to 75 years old. Different types of screening tests include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test (FOBT), or fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Review this resource and talk to your doctor to discuss which test is right for you.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Benefits and limitations of mammography

    Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
    Mammograms to detect breast cancer can lead to better treatment success, but also more tests, false negatives and over-treatment. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors when choosing whether to have a mammogram.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Lung cancer screening

    Mayo Clinic
    If you are a long-time smoker, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is more likely to be cured if found in its early stages.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Skin examination

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Get a skin exam if you have a family history of skin cancer. Check your skin regularly for changes in size, colour or shape of moles and marks. Learn the ABCDE rule or the seven point checklist to recognize the differences between normal moles and melanoma.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Reducing your risk for melanoma

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. To reduce your risk use sunscreen, cover your skin, sit in the shade and wear sunglasses. Do not use indoor tanning beds. Check your skin regularly for changes in the shape, colour or size of moles and birthmarks.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding melanoma early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Symptoms of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) include: changes in moles or spots on the skin, new marks, asymmetric moles, a mole without a clear border, or a mole that looks different from others. You may be at more risk if family members have had melanoma.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Melanoma: Checking your skin

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Check your skin for changes in a room with good lighting and with a mirror. Look for lumps, scaly red patches, new moles or marks, changes in shape, colour, size or texture of moles or birthmarks, and non-healing areas of your skin.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding non-melanoma skin cancer early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer include: a non-healing sore, lumps on skin, red patches and waxy looking skin. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, or if you have a history of skin cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Bladder cancer diagnosis and staging

    UpToDate - patient information
    Blood in your urine and mid-back pain are common symptoms of bladder cancer. See your doctor to have your kidneys, bladder and urethra checked if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Risk reduction strategies for vaginal cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Get the HPV vaccine, limit your sexual partners and use a condom to lower your risk of vaginal cancer. Have regular pap tests and avoid smoking. This resource includes questions to ask your doctor about vaginal cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Stomach (gastric) cancer

    Patient.co.uk
    Treatment can often slow the progress of stomach cancer, and the earlier it is diagnosed, the better. Discuss treatment options with a specialist who knows your case.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Mammography

    National Women’s Health Network
    Women under the age of 50 should decide whether or not to screen for breast cancer based on personal risk and context. Women aged 50 to 74 should receive regular breast cancer screening.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Cervical cancer screening

    Cancer Care Ontario
    Cervical cancer screening is the only way to find early changes in a women's cervix that might lead to cancer. The Ontario Cervical Screening Program recommends that women age 21 or older who are or have been sexually active get a Pap test every three years.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Screening: What might help you decide

    Informed Health Online
    Screening tests are more useful if the disease is serious, if the test is reliable, if the test is not harmful and if the disease has better treatment options when detected early. Screening is not a diagnosis and can sometimes lead to a false alarm. This resource includes questions to ask your doctor.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast Screening Decisions

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women aged 40-49 decide whether or not to have mammogram screening starting at age 40 or age 50, and yearly or every other year.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Breast Screening Decisions

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps women aged 40-49 decide whether or not to have mammogram screening starting at age 40 or age 50, and yearly or every other year.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding testicular cancer early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    You may be at higher risk for testicular cancer if you are missing one or both testicles, have a family or personal history of testicular cancer or have Klinefelter syndrome. Learn what is normal for your testicles and see your doctor if you notice any changes.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding non-Hodgkin lymphoma early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be more successful if found early. Get regular health checkups and see your doctor if you have swollen lymph nodes, a skin rash, unexplained fatigues or fever, bad night sweats or unexplained weight loss.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding uterine cancer early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Symptoms of uterine cancer include: vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause, and/or with intercourse, pain during intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic pain. Refer to this resource for factors that put you at higher risk for uterine cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Finding prostate cancer early

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening if you have trouble with urination (peeing). Two tests are often used in combination: a digital rectal examination and prostate-specific antigen tests. You may be at higher risk for prostate cancer if you have African ancestry or have a family history of prostate cancer.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Cervical cancer prevention and screening

    National Women’s Health Network
    Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Reduce your risk: get regular health care checkups and use condoms for sex. Check your local guidelines for cervical cancer screening recommendations in your country.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Le dépistage du cancer de la prostate : une décision qui VOUS appartient! [Prostate cancer screening: It's YOUR decision!]

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps men decide whether or not to get screening for prostate cancer by comparing the benefits and risks of both options.
  • Patient Decision Aid

    Le dépistage du cancer de la prostate : une décision qui VOUS appartient! [Prostate cancer screening: It's YOUR decision!]

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps men decide whether or not to get screening for prostate cancer by comparing the benefits and risks of both options.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Hyperplasia of the breast

    Mayo Clinic
    Atypical hyperplasia is a precancerous condition that affects cells in the breast. Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the abnormal cells. Breast cancer screening is highly recommended.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Breast cancer screening

    Cancer Care Ontario
    Finding breast cancer early means a better chance for successful treatment and the cancer is less likely to spread. Mammograms are used as a breast cancer screening tool.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Colorectal cancer screening

    Cancer Care Ontario
    Detecting colorectal cancer early gives you a better chance of being cured. Cancer Care Ontario recommends that all Ontarians between the ages of 50 and 74 receive screening for colorectal cancer every 2 years.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Colorectal cancer risk

    Cancer Care Ontario
    There is a better chance of curing colorectal cancer if it is found early. Cancer Care Ontario recommends you get screened for colectoral cancer every 2 years starting when you are 50 years old. Read more about risk factors, prevention, screening and treatment in this resource.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Human papillomavirus (HPV)

    Public Health Agency of Canada (aging & seniors)
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections. Most people with an HPV infection do not have symptoms, but some types of HPV can lead to serious problems like cervical, penile or anal cancer. Lower your risk of HPV: practice safe sex and consider the HPV vaccine.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Oral cancer screening (PDQ®): Screening - Patient information [NCI] - Risks of oral cancer screening

    WebMD
    Not all screening tests are helpful, and most have possible risks. Talk to your doctor about your risk for oral cancer and your need for screening tests.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Colonoscopy after 75

    Berkeley Wellness
    Current guidelines recommend that if you are over 76, you do not need to be screened for colorectal cancer. The risks of the procedure increase and the benefits decrease with age.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Get tested for colorectal cancer

    HealthFinder
    If you are age 50 or older, get tested regularly for colorectal cancer. Talk yo your doctor to decide which test is right for you.
  • Web Resource Rating

    Do you need a yearly checkup?

    Center for Advancing Health
    Check in with your doctor periodically to ensure that you are getting screened for various diseases and risk factors at the recommended time interval.
  • Blog Post

    No one left out: Breaking down cultural barriers to support healthy aging

    Not everyone has the same opportunity to access health promotion programs that can save lives and prevent serious illness. Culturally customized materials and approaches can help.
  • Blog Post

    Screening for prostate cancer: What you should know about the PSA test

    The PSA test is an option for men thinking about being screened for prostate cancer but the harms may outweigh the benefits.

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