Harvard Health Letter

Cancer screening as we age

Does it make sense to get a mammogram if you're 80? A colonoscopy if you're 85? Experts are still sorting it out.

Experts have battled over whether women should start getting screening mammograms for breast cancer at age 40 or 50. Hit the half-century mark these days, and chances are that your doctor has a present waiting for you: a referral for a colonoscopy. It's a given that women will start getting Pap smears, the screening test for cervical cancer, when they turn 21 or even sooner, depending on when they become sexually active.

But now attention — and with it, controversy — is shifting to questions about how old people should be when they stop getting these screening tests.

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