Get Back on Track with Routine Cancer Screenings

By Dr. Matt Narrett
August 27, 2021
Senior living doctor consults with a resident

Because of pandemic closures and appropriate concerns about exposure to COVID-19, many people postponed or cancelled routine cancer screenings. Since March of last year, it is estimated that cancer screenings dropped 90%. Now that COVID-19 activity has declined dramatically, it is time to refocus on cancer prevention and reschedule screenings. Over the years, we’ve learned more about which screenings are beneficial for seniors. Let’s start with colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of death in this country.

Colorectal cancer screening recommendations

This spring, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) conducted an extensive review of colorectal cancer screening recommendations. They found that screening in adults from 50 to 75 years of age has a substantial benefit, meaning it leads to early detection and treatment and has been shown to save lives.

The USPSTF guidance for adults from 76 to 85 years of age was more nuanced and dependent upon a number of factors, including results from prior screening tests, underlying health status and risk for developing colon cancer, and individual preferences.

If you are between 76 and 85, you and your health care provider should have an informed discussion about the risks and benefits of screening. Colorectal cancer screening is not generally recommended if you are over 85.

Prostate cancer screening recommendations

Prostate cancer screening for all age groups requires a careful discussion with your health care provider. While it’s the most common cancer diagnosed in men, it can be slow growing and not require aggressive management. In 2018, the USPSTF revisited prostate cancer screening and recommended that men ages 55 to 69 should have periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening only after discussing it with their provider.

Risk factors to consider include family history, lifestyle, overall health, personal preferences, and the risks and benefits of PSA or digital screening.

For men expected to live at least 10 years, most clinicians offer screening up to age 70, some until age 75. For men 70 years of age and older, PSA screening is not generally recommended, but again, it is an individual decision.

Breast cancer screening recommendations

In women, breast cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer behind skin cancer. Similar to colon cancer screening for ages up to 75, mammography, the most common screening tool, has been found to detect cancer early and save lives. Screening may be performed every year or every other year depending on individual risk, overall health, and preferences.

Screening after age 74 is contingent upon the same factors, but life expectancy should also be considered; if you are expected to live at least 10 years, mammography should continue if you’ve had a discussion with your provider about it.

Review with your provider what cancer screenings you may be due for. Health care facilities have well-established safety protocols in place, and you no longer need to delay testing if it is indicated. Timely screening can catch disease early, so take the necessary action to stay well.

Comprehensive senior healthcare at Erickson Senior Living

Every Erickson Senior Living community offers comprehensive senior healthcare with onsite medical facilities. Our team of healthcare professionals will work with you and your family on the best preventative health plan as well as treatment options whenever needed. Learn more about our approach to healthcare by requesting information today.