The goal of cancer screening is to reduce the number of people who die from cancer.
Cancer screening tests are able to detect cancer or pre-cancer before symptoms appear.
Every medical test has potential harms (bad things) and potential benefits (good things) that can occur. Potential benefits and potential harms are events that happened to enough people to make them important to know for informed decision-making.
Let's break it down...
Harm = a physical hurt or injury
Benefit = a gain or advantage
Potential = something that may or may not occur
Risk factor = anything that increases your chance of getting cancer
The potential benefits of cancer screening can include:
The potential harms of cancer screening include:
Evidence clearly demonstrates that the benefits of screening for breast, cervix, and colon cancer outweigh the potential harms for the eligible population.
Most women age 50-74 should have a screening mammogram every 2 years.
Call 1-855-95-CHECK to make an appointment.
Most women age 21-69 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every 3 years.
Call your healthcare provider for an appointment or click here to find a Pap test clinic near you.
If you would like help to make an informed decision about having a cancer screening test:
For a screening program to be initiated, there are several criteria that must be satisfied. To read more, click here.
If you have concerns about your cancer risk, speak to your healthcare provider. There is not enough evidence that screening people at average risk for other cancers is effective. There is, however, there is enough evidence to support the recommendation to screen high risk individuals for lung cancer.
An annual low dose computed tomography (LDCT) for three years is recommended for males and females age 55-74 who:
Talk to your healthcare provider about your level of risk for lung cancer.
*To calculate a person's pack year history (number of packs smoked daily) x (number of years smoked).
There is currently not enough evidence for a reliable screening test that reduces the number of cancers and/or deaths from ovarian cancer. To learn more about ovarian cancer screening visit:
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care does not recommend screening for prostate cancer with the PSA, as the harms of screening outweigh the benefits for men at average risk. The decision to screen for prostate cancer in males should involve a conversation between the client and their primary care provider.