Your 60s and Beyond: A Physician’s Guide to Cancer Screenings by Age

Submitted by Dr. Nitish Manning on January 28, 2019

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Maturity in age should mean you're well into the development of healthy lifestyle habits.  To help prevent cancer, eating right and staying in shape continue to be important well into your senior years. To help you stay on track, gyms offer programs for older adults, like SilverSneakers, that can help you to maintain your fitness goals. If you have trouble maintaining your weight, making healthful food choices or managing your diabetes, you may choose to speak with a dietitian.

Recommendations for cancer screenings beyond your 60's are below. 

A man in his 60's talking to his doctor

In Your 60's

Men/women:

  • Colon cancer screening: colonoscopy (preferred) every three, five or 10 years pending results and family history.  Alternatives are yearly fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years pending results, or Cologuard (stool DNA testing) every three years, pending results.
  • Lung cancer screening: recommended for individuals 55-80 years with at least a 30-pack per year smoking history who are either currently smoking or who have quit within the past 15 years.  This test is done annually with a low dose contrast CT chest scan if you are a current smoker or until you have been a nonsmoker for 15 years.

Women:

  • Cervical cancer screening: recommended up to 64 years old.  Pap smear with HPV co-testing every five years (preferred) or pap smear alone every three years.  A new alternative for screening to discuss with your primary care physician is high-risk HPV screening alone every give years.
  • Breast cancer screening: recommended via a yearly mammogram.  Some women may be recommended to have whole breast ultrasound supplemental screening if they are considered to have dense breasts.  This should be discussed with a primary care physician.

Men:

  • Prostate cancer screening: recommend until 69 years old, discuss with your primary care physician about the risks versus benefits for screening with the blood test called Prostate Specific antigen (PSA) and digital rectal exam (DRE).  This is usually done every one-to-two years.

In Your 70's

Men/women:

  • Colon cancer screening: recommended until 75 years old, colonoscopy (preferred) every three, five or 10 years pending results and family history.  Alternatives are yearly fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years pending results, or Cologuard (stool DNA testing) every three years, pending results.  Screening from 76-80 years old may be beneficial to those who have never been screened and are healthy enough to undergo both the screening process and treatments if cancer is detected, and if you are otherwise healthy.
  • Lung cancer screening: recommended until 80 years old for individuals with at least a 30-pack per year smoking history who are either currently smoking or who have quit within the past 15 years.  This test is done annually with a low dose contrast CT chest scan if you are a current smoker or until you have been a nonsmoker for 15 years. This should be discussed with your primary care physician about the risks vs benefits of screening.

Women:

  • Breast cancer screening: recommended until 75 years old with yearly mammogram.  Some women may be recommended to have whole breast ultrasound supplemental screening if they are considered to have dense breasts.  This should be discussed with a primary care physician.

In Your 80's

  • No specific cancer screening recommendations

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

As always, all adults should visit their primary care physician at least one time per year. If you do not have a primary care physician, you can find one here.

This blog post is part three in a three part series. Check out cancer screenings in your 20's & 30's and 40's & 50's.

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.