Cancer prevention and screening

At Kaiser Permanente, cancer screenings are part of your primary care. And preventing cancer is a critical part of your overall care. Our doctors aim to find cancer early — when many common cancers are more treatable. So even when you don’t have symptoms, they’ll provide in-person, phone, and email reminders to help you get the screenings you need. 

When and how to screen for cancer

The best way to fight cancer is by catching it early. Your doctor will create a screening schedule based on your age, health, family history, and unique risk factors. And with your electronic health record, you'll always know when it's time for your next test. 

Here are cancer screening guidelines for the most common types of cancers.1


Breast cancer screening

Your doctor can recommend screening options for you, based on your family history or other risk factors. Mammograms are recommended to screen for breast cancer every 1 to 2 years starting between age 40 and 50, or earlier if you‘re high risk.

Cervical cancer screening

Your doctor will use a Pap test or a human papillomavirus (HPV) test to screen for cervical cancer. After you turn 21, expect a Pap test every 3 years and an HPV test every 5 years — or more often, depending on your medical history.

Colon cancer screening

Start getting screened at 45 for colon, or colorectal, cancer — earlier if you’re high risk. You can screen using an at-home stool sample test each year, or by having a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Lung cancer screening

Even if you don’t have symptoms, consider screening for lung cancer if you’re 50 or older and have smoked 20 packs of cigarettes or more per year within the last 15 years. Screenings are done using X-rays of the lungs.

Prostate cancer screening

Talk to your doctor about risk factors for prostate cancer, especially if you’re 45 or older. Your doctor can tell you about getting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A PSA test is a blood test that screens for prostate cancer and is usually given to men with no symptoms.

Skin cancer screening

Ask your doctor how often you should schedule a full-body skin screening. If you have many moles, fair skin, blue eyes, red hair, or a family history of skin cancer, you may need more regular checks.

Graphic of person holding a magnifying glass looking at cancer cells in a lung


Browse by cancer type

As a Kaiser Permanente member, you have access to a full spectrum of cancer screening services. Our vast network of cancer specialists can diagnose and treat any type and stage of cancer.


Common cancer types

How to reduce your cancer risk

More than 40% of cancer cases could potentially be prevented with lifestyle changes.2 Follow these tips to understand your cancer risk, improve your health, and catch warning signs early.


People often talk about cancer as just one disease, but there are more than 100 different types of cancer. And every cancer case is unique. Some cancers have no symptoms, especially in the early stages. Other cancers give clues about what’s going on inside your body. 

If you’re concerned about symptoms you’re experiencing, don't ignore them. For example, bright red blood after a bowel movement can be from rectal bleeding — a common symptom of colon cancer. Early signs of skin cancer include changes in the shape, color, or size of moles or lesions. If you notice something that’s not normal for you, get it checked so your doctor can guide you through next steps.

Explore the symptom checker

Your best defense against most cancers is regular screenings for early detection. Kaiser Permanente is a national leader in cancer screening rates for the most common types of cancer.3 

As a Kaiser Permanente member, your personal doctor will help you set up a screening plan. They may recommend you get screened more often than others based on your cancer risk. For example, family history can increase your risk of getting cancer, and some cancers are more common among certain racial backgrounds. Your electronic health record will keep track of your screening plan and let you know when it’s time for the next one.

Screening recommendations based on your health history

Understanding your genetic cancer risk is an important step. Some cancers are hereditary, meaning they’re related to genes in your body that can be passed from parent to child. This makes some people more likely to develop cancer than others. 

Gather your family history and track any cancer in your family on a family history form. Genetic testing can be used to find changes in your genes or chromosomes that may cause cancer. Genetic counseling can help you understand your inherited cancer risk.

Using your family history, your doctor can help set up a personalized plan for you. It may include more regular screenings or specific lifestyle recommendations to help prevent cancer.

Download a sample family history form

Although the exact cause of cancer isn’t known, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of getting cancer. You may not be able to control all risk factors, but you can make healthy lifestyle changes that reduce your cancer risk.

Positive practices for a healthier life include regular exercise, good nutrition, and managing stress. Drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, and wearing sunblock also can help reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. 

You can even take steps to prevent conditions that lead to cancer — like HPV. HPV causes most cervical cancer, but vaccination is one way to make sure you don’t get the virus. Together, vaccination and regular screenings can help prevent cervical cancer. That’s why we’re proud to say our cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination rates are in the top 5% nationwide.4

At Kaiser Permanente, we lead the nation in promoting healthy living for our members.5 The following resources are available without a referral and can help you make healthy lifestyle changes.

Learn more about lifestyle changes that may help prevent cancer  

Marla's story

“Being a Kaiser Permanente member saved my life”

After a checkup and routine blood work, Marla Marriott's doctors found a rare type of blood cancer. Her cancer care team jumped into action to create a personalized plan to treat her leukemia. Read Marla’s story.

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1Guideline recommendations apply to populations of patients. Clinical judgment is necessary to design treatment plans for individuals. The online screening tools are for educational use only. They’re not intended or designed as substitutes for the reasonable exercise of independent clinical judgment by practitioners, considering each person’s needs on an individual basis. 
2Cancer Facts and Figures 2022, American Cancer Society, 2022.
3NCQA Quality Compass, 2022.
4Kaiser Permanente 2022 HEDIS® scores. Benchmarks provided by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Quality Compass® and represent all lines of business. Kaiser Permanente combined region scores were provided by the Kaiser Permanente Department of Care and Service Quality. The source for data contained in this publication is Quality Compass 2022 and is used with the permission of NCQA. Quality Compass 2022 includes certain CAHPS data. Any data display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion based on these data is solely that of the authors, and NCQA specifically disclaims responsibility for any such display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion. Quality Compass® and HEDIS® are registered trademarks of NCQA. CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
5See note 3. 
6Classes vary by location and some may require a fee.