Regular screening for some cancers can help to detect them early, which may help to reduce their mortality rate. The removal of precancerous growths (such as colon polyps or moles) can also prevent some cancers from becoming invasive and potentially spreading to other parts of the body. Stool blood tests (also known as fecal occult blood tests [FOBT] and fecal immunochemical tests [FIT]), sigmoidoscopies, and colonoscopies are some of the tests and procedures that can detect colorectal cancer in its early stages. Breast cancer can be detected earlier by mammography and clinical breast exams, and cervical cancer can be detected in its earliest stages using the Pap smear. Prostate cancer can be detected using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exams (DRE), but their use is increasingly controversial.

This section focuses on two different areas: cancers for which there is significant evidence for screening (breast, cervical, and colorectal) and those for which there is emerging or limited evidence (lung, prostate). Our objectives reflect the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for overall population-based screening. Given the ongoing concerns related to the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, our main emphasis is on informed decision-making with physicians to assess risk. In the case of lung cancer, for which there are emerging ways to screen those at highest risk for lung cancer (e.g., smokers); our objective is to monitor emerging technology, such as the use of spiral CT scans.

For the Goals, Objectives and Strategies of the Early Detection & Screening section please see pages 46-53 of the 2012 – 2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Plan for Massachusetts  pdf format of 2012-2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prev./Control Plan
file size 6MB doc format of                             2012–2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prev./Control Plan                file size 1MB.


This information is provided by the Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Network.