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Cancer Early Detection


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What cancers can you screen for?

Breast |  Cervical  |  Colorectal  |  Lung  |  Prostate  |  Skin

Below is more information about these cancers and their screenings.


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Call your healthcare provider to schedule your cancer screenings.  

​If you don't have a healthcare provider, call your health insurance to get one. 

If you don't have health insurance, call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 for help signing up for insurance.


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How can I talk to my healthcare provider about cancer screenings? 

  1. Call your provider and schedule an appointment. 
  2. Be prepared to ask your provider questions such as:
    • Which cancers should I be screened for?
    • How often should I get these screenings?
    • Will my screenings be covered by my health insurance? If not, how much will they cost?


How will my doctor decide which cancers I should get screened for?
Your doctor may recommend cancer screenings based on your:
  • Age
  • Racial/ethnic background
  • Family history of cancer
  • Personal health history

Breast Cancer

What are risk factors for developing breast cancer?
You may be more likely to develop breast cancer if you:
  • Have a family history of breast cancer.
  • Are Black, Asian, American Indian, and Alaskan Native.  Women from these racial groups are at higher risk of breast cancer compared to white women.  
Talk with your provider about your risk for breast cancer and getting screened. 


How is breast cancer screened:
A mammogram is used to screen breast cancer. A mammogram is a low-dose (amount) x-ray that allows doctors to look for changes in breast tissue.  It uses a machine that takes x-rays of the breast tissue. The machine takes x-rays at lower doses of radiation than usual x-rays.

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Cervical Cancer


What are risk factors for developing cervical cancer?
You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if you:
  • Are sexually active.
  • Have been infected with HPV.
  • Have a history of cervical issues or other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Are Black, LatinX, American Indian, Alaskan Native, or Asian.  Women from these racial groups are at higher risk of cervical cancer compared to white women.  
Talk to your provider about your risk for cervical cancer and getting screened.


How is cervical cancer screened?
Cervical cancer is detected through a Pap test, also called a Pap smear. During this exam, you lie on an exam table with your feet placed firmly in stirrups. Your provider inserts a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina to see the cervix.  A sample of cells from your cervix is collected using a special brush. These cells are sent to a lab for testing.  
 
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Colorectal Cancer

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
You may be more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you:
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Are Black, American Indian, and Alaskan Native. These racial groups get colorectal cancer more than other racial groups.
Talk to your provider about your risk for colorectal cancer and getting screened.


Screening for colorectal cancer is done through a stool test or colonoscopy.
There are multiple types of screenings for colorectal cancer. The most common are:
  1. Stool Test (FIT): This test is done at home using a test kit. You collect a sample of your stool (poop) and send it to a participating lab. 
  2. Colonoscopy:  This test is done inside your health care provider's office. Your provider uses a tube to look for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon.

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Lung Cancer

Who is at high risk for lunch cancer?
You may be more likely to develop lung cancer if you:
  • Currently or previously smoked tobacco products.
  • Have been exposed to chemicals such as radon, asbestos, and diesel fumes.
  • Have a history of certain cancers.
  • Have a family history of lung cancer.
  • Have a history of COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Are Black,  Alaskan Native, and American Indian.  These racial groups get lung cancer more than other races.   

    Talk to your provider about your risk for lung cancer and getting screened.


How is lung cancer screened?

A Low-Dose CT (LDCT) is used to screen lung cancer. During an LDCT scan,  an X-ray machine takes detailed images of your lungs.  The scan only takes a few minutes and is not painful.

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Prostate Cancer

What are risk factors for prostate cancer?

You may be more likely to develop prostate cancer if you:

  • Have a family history of prostate cancer.
  • Are Black. Black men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men from other racial groups.

Talk to your provider about your risk for prostate cancer and getting screened.


How is prostate cancer screened?
Screening for prostate cancer is done through a PSA test. PSA is a blood test. It measures the level of a substance (PSA) made by the prostate in the blood. During this test, a small amount of blood is taken from your inner elbow by a specialist.

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Skin Cancer

Talk to your provider about your risk for skin cancer and if you should get screened. 

What are risk factors for developing skin cancer?
You may be more likely to develop skin cancer if you:
  • Have fair skin or any skin type with chronic exposure to the sun (chronic sunburns)
  • Have a large number of moles (over 100)
  • Have a family history of skin cancer

How is skin cancer screened?
Skin cancer may be screened through a Total Body Skin Examination (TBSE) is a visual examination of the skin that is done by a healthcare provider. The screening checks the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other marks that are unusual. Certain unusual marks may be signs of skin cancer.  

Your provider will counsel you to:
  • Limit exposure to the sun especially between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
  • Fully cover skin with clothing and hats.
  • Use sun block (SPF 15 or greater).
  • Avoid using indoor tanning.
You can also complete a self-screening. If you have any concerns after completing the self-screening, talk to your provider. To do a head-to-toe screening of your skin:
  • Be in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror.
  • Have a hand mirror to check areas that are hard to see.
  • Check all areas of your body including behind your legs, under your feet and on your scalp.
  • Check moles for signs of melanoma by using the following criteria:
    • Asymmetry: The mole has an odd shape, with half of it not matching the other half.
    • Border: The border of the mole is ragged or irregular.
    • Color: The color of the mole is uneven.
    • Diameter: The mole is bigger than the size of a pea or a pencil eraser.
    • Evolving: The mole has changed in size, shape, or color.
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