Your 20s and 30s: A Physician’s Guide to Cancer Screenings by Age

Submitted by Dr. Nitish Manning on August 31, 2020

View Blogs by Topic

Subscribe Here!

COVID-19 may have you nervous about seeking care, but cancer screenings are still vitally important.

The following is the first article in a three-part series about cancer screenings. These first appeared on our blog in 2019, but nothing has changed. During these uncertain times, early cancer detection can still save your life.

You should also visit with a primary care provider yearly and be in touch if you have any health concerns, including mental health questions. Because your health is always a priority, in-person appointments with your provider are set up with your safety in mind. Most providers also offer other options to fit your comfort level, including telephone and telehealth visits. Be sure to check-in with your doctor for any questions about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

A young couple talking to an oncologist

In your 20s and 30s it’s easy to feel indestructible.  Whether or not you take great care of your health, there are some important cancer screening tests to be aware of.

My recommendations are below.

In Your 20's

Men/women:

  • Colon cancer screening is not indicated, but if you have concerning symptoms or positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss with your primary care physician about early screening and/or genetic testing.

Women:

  • Cervical cancer screening: get a pap smear every three years starting in your 20s regardless of your sexual activity.
  • Breast cancer screening is not indicated, but if you have concerning symptoms or positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss with your primary care physician about early screening and/or genetic testing.

In Your 30's

Men/women:

  • Colon cancer screening is not indicated, but if you have concerning symptoms or positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss with your primary care physician about early screening and/or genetic testing.

Women:

  • Cervical cancer screening: pap smear and co-testing with HPV (preferred) every five years or pap smear alone every three years.  A new alternative for screening to discuss with your primary care physician is a high-risk HPV screening alone every five years.
  • Breast cancer screening is not indicated, but if you have concerning symptoms or positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss with your primary care physician about early screening and/or genetic testing.

The following cancers do not currently have any specific recommendations or testing for screening. So no matter your age, you should discuss family history with your physician and be very aware of related symptoms:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Ovarian or uterine cancer
    • However, pending positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss genetic testing with your primary care physician.
  • Pancreatic cancer
    • However, pending positive family or genetic history, you may want to discuss genetic testing with your primary care physician
  • Skin cancer
    • However, an individual with skin findings, positive family history or significant risk factors may want to discuss screening with a primary care physician or dermatologist
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

These are also great decades for starting healthy habits that can decrease your risk for cancer in the long-term. These behaviors include healthful eating, regular exercise and stress reduction. If you have questions about how to make these positive changes, now is the time to meet with a dietitian or an exercise trainer.

As always, no matter your age, you should be aware of any changes in your health, as well as undergo an annual check-up from a primary care physician.

This blog post is part one in a three part series. Check out cancer screenings in 40's & 50's and 60's & beyond

Dr. Nitish J. Manning is a member of Currituck Internal Medicine and Family Practice, a part of Chesapeake Regional Medical Group. She earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., her master’s degree in medical science from the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pa. and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Richard Stockton State College of New Jersey, Pomona, N.J. She completed her internship and residency at EVMS Ghent Family Medicine and served as the Geriatric Chief resident. Dr. Manning is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians.