Luck is the common theme associated with St. Patrick’s Day. But as we think about luck, it is important to remember that cancer isn’t a matter of good or bad luck. Being proactive in your healthcare by making appointments for preventative screenings, eating healthy and being active are important to preventing cancer.
Here are 7 of the most important preventive screenings to reduce your risk of cancer:
- Breast Cancer: Mammograms - According to the Center for Disease Control, mammograms are the most effective way to monitor and/or detect breast cancer before it grows large enough to feel or experience adverse symptoms. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.
Read more about mammograms.
- Cervical Cancer: Pap Test - The Pap test searches for cell changes on the cervix that could become cancerous if not properly treated. Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular Pap screenings. The CDC recommends that women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21. In addition to the regular Pap test, a new HPV Pap test looks for the human papillomavirus that can cause these cell changes. The CDC recommends women who are 30 and older should discuss whether to have the HPV Pap test with their doctor.
Learn more about the Pap test.
- Colon Cancer: Colonoscopy - This screening detects both colorectal polyps and cancer and has little adverse side effects, other than slight discomfort that should not be painful during the procedure. You should regularly screen for colon cancer once you turn 50, or earlier if you have a family member who has had colon cancer, suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease, or if you have a genetic syndrome such as FAP or Lynch syndrome.
Read more about colonoscopies.
- Skin Cancer: Skin Examinations - While there is no physician screening method for skin cancer that effectively reduces the chance of death, doctors still recommend to regularly perform a skin check yourself, or have a partner check for you. You should take note of any skin changes, such as new moles or changes to an existing mole and report them to your doctor as soon as possible.
Learn more about skin cancer screenings.
- Lung Cancer: LDCT - Low-dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) test is the recommended screening test for detecting lung cancer. This screening, however, is only recommended for heavy smokers who are currently smoking or have quit within the past 15 years and are between the ages of 55 and 80 years old. If you fit this description, speak to your primary care physician about the LDCT.
Read more about lung cancer screenings.
- Prostate Cancer: PSA Screening - A Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test may not be suitable for all men, however, its benefits include detecting and identifying aggressive prostate cancer early, as well as tracking the progress of potential for developing prostate cancer. For those with an immediate family member diagnosed with prostate cancer, screening may be more important. Every man should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of PSA screening with their doctor thoroughly before making a decision.
Learn more about PSA screenings.
- Oral, Head, and Neck: Doctor Screening - If you excessively drink alcohol, use tobacco products and are sexually active, ask your doctor to check you for any masses, lesions, swellings, or asymmetry. They will visually check your neck, face, and oral cavity, and yearly screening is recommended. HPV is quickly becoming the leading cause of oral cancers. As the incidence of HPV infections rises, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your individual risk.
Read more about oral, head, and neck screenings.
Determining whether or not to proceed with cancer screenings is dependent on your individual risk and lifestyle. Be sure to discuss the benefits and risks of whether and when to begin screenings to make an informed decision that’s best for you.
21CO’s integrated network of cancer care providers includes specialists in the areas of radiation oncology, urology, pulmonology, gynecologic oncology, breast surgery, general surgery, colorectal surgery and head and neck surgery. Find a 21CO doctor near you.