Cancer Screenings & Diagnosis

Fighting cancer with early detection

Cancer Screenings & Diagnosis at Mount Auburn Hospital

Screenings are a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer. They can help you find cancer before you have symptoms and lead to an earlier diagnosis. In many cases, the earlier you learn you have cancer and receive care, the easier your cancer may be to treat.

At Mount Auburn Hospital, we offer a variety of cancer tests, many through your primary care provider. There are general recommendations for cancer screening. However, based on your personal and family health history you may have unique screening needs.

If you have a strong family history of certain cancers, doctors may recommend that you undergo genetic testing to help guide your screening recommendations. BRCA gene testing, for example, can tell you if you have an increased risk for developing breast cancer or other types of cancer. If so, you may need earlier or more frequent screening or additional screening tests.

Talking with your doctor is the best way to learn when to begin testing, which tests are right for you and when to repeat screening.

Getting a Cancer Diagnosis

If your screening test reveals something suspicious, we may do additional tests and/or a biopsy to confirm cancer. A biopsy involves removing tissue and examining it under a microscope for signs of cancer.

Our compassionate cancer navigators are here to help schedule your next steps and guide you through the process. We make sure you clearly understand the screening procedure, what your results may mean and how we will follow up with you. We work to get you a diagnosis as quickly as possible.

We understand how stressful it can be when you’re waiting for cancer news. If you receive a cancer diagnosis, you can count on Mount Auburn Hospital for world-class care in our unique academic hospital with a warm community feel in the heart of the Harvard Square neighborhood.

Cancer Genetics & Prevention Clinic

Our Cancer Genetics and Prevention Clinic can be reached at 617-492-0714. Epic referrals may also be made. Email us with any inquiries and referrals.

Make an Appointment

Our office number is 617-497-9646. Depending on your insurance, we may ask you to obtain a referral from your primary care provider.

General Cancer Screening Recommendations

Screenings may include radiology and imaging tests, laboratory tests and a physical exam conducted by your doctor.

Breast Cancer Screening

Our breast health team conducts breast cancer screenings. We follow the screening recommendations of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American College of Radiology and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

  • If you’re a woman in your 20s and 30s, you should have a breast examination by a health professional every three years.
  • Starting at age 40, you should have a breast examination every year.
  • Beginning at age 40, you should have a mammogram every year. You should continue to get a yearly mammogram every year as long as you’re in good health.
  • If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, screening should begin 10 years prior to the youngest age of diagnosis in a family member.
  • If you have a high risk of breast cancer because of family history, you may need more intensive surveillance with breast MRI in addition to mammograms.
Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening helps identify changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening involves a Pap test, a human papillomavirus (HPV) test or both. During both types of tests, a doctor removes cells from your cervix with a brush or other device. The cells then go to the lab for testing.

Screening frequency, as well as the type of test you should have, depends on your age and health history.

  • You should start screening at age 21.
  • Between ages 21 and 29, you should have a Pap test alone every three years. You may consider HPV testing alone between ages 25 and 29, but Pap tests are preferred.
  • Between ages 30 and 65, you may:
    • Have a Pap test and an HPV test every five years.
    • Have a Pap test alone every three years.
    • Have an HPV test alone every five years.
Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer screening looks for cancer in your colon and rectum. It’s also known as colon cancer screening.

  • Begin screening at age 45 and continue through age 75. Several tests are available. These include:
    • Stool-based tests like Cologuard, which looks for signs of cancer in your stool.
    • Visual exams such as colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and virtual colonoscopy. These tests look inside your colon and rectum for cancer or polyps, which are growths that can become cancerous. During a colonoscopy, any growths identified may be removed, which can prevent cancer from developing.
  • Between ages 76 and 85, talk with your doctor about whether you should continue screening. Consider factors such as your overall health, your past screening history and your personal preferences.
  • After age 85, colorectal cancer screening is not recommended.  If you have a strong family history of colon or pancreatic cancers, screening should begin 10 years prior to the youngest age of diagnosis in a family member.
  • If you have a high risk of colon or pancreatic cancer because of family history, you may need earlier or more intensive surveillance with a special imaging test or procedure similar to a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.

If you get a positive result on any non-colonoscopy screening test, it’s important to follow up with a timely colonoscopy.

Lung Cancer Screening

Mount Auburn Hospital is a designated American College of Radiology lung cancer screening center. Highly trained specialists in lung cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment are here to help you through our Lung & Respiratory Care department.

We use a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan for lung cancer screening.

If you meet the following criteria, you should consider yearly lung cancer screening if:

  • You are between 50 and 80 years old.
  • You currently smoke
  • You have a history of smoking (an average of a pack a day for 20 years, or two packs a day for 10 years).
Prostate Cancer Screening

Decisions about whether to be screened for prostate cancer are personal. It’s best to talk with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits. The American Cancer Society recommends having this discussion at:

  • Age 50 if you’re at average risk of prostate cancer and have a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
  • Age 45 if you’re at high risk for prostate cancer. This includes African American men and those who had a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.
  • Age 40 if you have more than one close relative (father and/or brother(s)) diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.

Prostate cancer screening is done with a blood test. It measures levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your body. A digital rectal exam is another prostate cancer test. In this exam, a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for any abnormalities on the prostate gland.

Cancer Care

If you have cancer, we have the services and specialties to support you at every stage of your cancer journey.

Related Locations

Mount Auburn Radiology at Arlington Address Icon 22 Mill Street
Suite 106
Arlington, MA 02476
Phone Icon 781-641-1940
Monday – Friday: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm
Mount Auburn Radiology at Concord Ave Address Icon 725 Concord Avenue
Suite 3400
Cambridge, MA 02137
Phone Icon 617-499-6789