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When asked to name healthy behaviors that help protect against cancer, most people could easily rattle off eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and don’t smoke. And of course, they’d be right. But one of the most powerful behaviors in the fight against cancer is all-too-often forgotten: getting screening tests.

For colon cancer alone, regular screening could save more than 30,000 lives each year in the United States. Add to this the potential lives saved from cervical and breast cancer screening tests, and it’s hard to ignore the power and importance of regular testing.

So how do screening tests work? One way is by finding cancer early so treatment can be more effective. But the benefits don’t stop there. Screening tests can also help prevent some cancers by finding and treating abnormal changes in cells before they have a chance to turn into cancer.

Although there isn’t a screening test for every cancer, there are a number of very effective tests that people should begin to have at certain ages, including the Pap test for cervical cancer; clinical breast exam and mammography for breast cancer; and a number of options for colon cancer. The PSA test for prostate cancer also is an option for men, though the benefits of that test are less clear.

Of course your doctor is the best person to talk to about screening tests and their risks and benefits. Everyone has a unique history and a unique outlook, and a doctor can help you figure out which tests are right for you and how often you should have them.

Click on the links below for more information about cancer screening on the Siteman Cancer Center website: