Screening for cancer at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care
The Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center advocates for regular screening for cancer. Pap smears, breast exams, mammograms are just a few of the exams that women should have regularly. Men should be screened for prostate and testicular cancers using blood tests and testicular and prostate exams. Everyone should have regular skin checks and colonoscopies. Screening schedules can vary depending on individual family history and other risk factors, so discuss your needs with your primary care physician.

Skin Cancer Screening

Both men and women should be aware of the risk of skin cancer and have their primary care physician or dermatologist monitor suspicious moles or skin lesions.

Colon Cancer Screening  

Beginning at age 50 or earlier for high-risk patients of those with family history, men and women should been screened for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about the best type of screening for you.

Lung Cancer Screening  

Both men and women who are heavy smokers or who smoked heavily in the past are at high risk for developing lung cancer. If you meet the established criteria, you should talk with your primary care physician about scheduling a CT scan. View lung cancer screening criteria.  

Screenings for women

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides the following guidelines for cancer screenings for women. Individual screening guidelines vary according to your personal health history or risk factors. For additional information, contact your primary care physician, family medicine physician or obstetrician/gynecologist.

Clinical Breast Exam

Annually beginning at age 19


Every one to two years for women ages 40 to 49 and annually beginning at age 50. Women are encouraged to perform monthly breast self-exams.

Pap Test

All women who are or have been sexually active or who have reached age 18 should have an annual Pap test and pelvic examination. After a woman has had three or more consecutive, satisfactory annual exams with normal findings, the Pap test may be performed less frequently in a low-risk woman at the discretion of the woman and her physician. More frequent Pap tests may be required for a woman with high-risk factors (including multiple sex partners, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol and drug abuse, or a history of cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer).

Screenings for men

Prostate cancer screening

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men. However, screening for early stages of prostate cancer remains controversial. Men who are older than 50 and younger men with a family history should discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their doctor. The best tests for prostate cancer include the digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

Testicular exam

A testicular exam is performed to screen for cancer of the testicles.