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The self-care routine that might save your life

A woman speaking to a medical professional.

Feb. 15, 2024—A cancer diagnosis is a serious (and unwelcome) event in one's life. That's a big reason why staying current on your recommended cancer screenings is an essential part of taking care of yourself.

Some screenings can detect cancer early, when it's small, hasn't spread and is more easily treatable. Other cancer screenings can even pick up precancers, allowing them to be eliminated before they have a chance to become cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends regular screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancers. Why these and not other cancers? Research has proven that screenings for these cancers can help save lives.

Current screening rates

In spite of the lifesaving benefits of cancer screenings, not everyone who is eligible is up-to-date. Current rates for the recommended cancer screenings are:

  • Lung cancer—13%.
  • Colorectal cancer—69%.
  • Cervical cancer—73%.
  • Breast cancer—76%.

In all of these cases, there's room for improvement.

The latest research

In a new study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers used a computer simulation to find out what would happen if just 10% more Americans got their cancer screenings on time. They looked specifically at screening rates and outcomes for lung, colorectal, breast and cervical cancers.

A 10% uptick in screenings could lead to:

  • 40% reduction in cervical cancer deaths.
  • 21% reduction in colorectal cancer deaths.
  • 4% reduction in breast cancer deaths.
  • 1% reduction in lung cancer deaths.

Scaled to the entire U.S. population, that amounts to tens of millions of lives saved.

Schedule your screenings

No one wants to spend time at a medical office. Still, making these appointments might save your life—and some screenings take less than half an hour of your day. Finding cancer early or finding precancerous cells before they turn into cancer is worth the minor inconvenience.

Talk to your doctor about what cancer screenings you might be eligible for, and make sure you stay up-to-date. To find out if you might be eligible for lung cancer screening, take this test.


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