Cancer screening information
June 7 marks National Cancer Survivors Day. On this day, we celebrate those who have survived any form of cancer and hope to inspire those recently diagnosed. This day is meant to provide support for all individuals and their families.
This time of celebration also brings an opportunity to spread awareness about the necessary cancer screenings individuals should get to help ensure early diagnosis. Staying aware of the signs and symptoms of specific kinds of cancer is very important, but it is equally important to know your risks and get screened before any symptoms occur.
Below are the most common types of cancer (based on data from the American Cancer Society) with recommended screening guidelines:
Women should start annual breast cancer screenings with an x-ray of the breast, or mammogram, at age 40 and continue as long as they are in good health. Higher-risk individuals who have a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to speak with their doctor about getting screened at an earlier age. Monthly at-home breast examinations are encouraged to monitor any changes. Being familiar with how the breast looks and feels is a key component in noticing early signs of breast cancer.
A low-dose CT scan (LDCT) is recommended for individuals at higher risk of lung cancer and who meet the following conditions: aged 55 to 74 years old and in fairly good health, currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years, and have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history. *A pack-year is 1 pack of cigarettes per day, per year.
Starting at age 50, men should consult with their healthcare providers to decide whether getting tested for prostate cancer is right for them. African American men, as well as men who have had a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, should talk with their provider at age 45.
Colon and Rectal
Colonoscopies can detect pre-cancerous polyps that form in the colon or rectum; polyps can be removed to prevent cancer. New guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend regular colonoscopy screenings for colorectal cancer should begin at age 45. Individuals in good health should continue to be screened regularly through age 75. People ages 76 to 85 are encouraged to talk with their healthcare provider on whether or not they need to continue testing.
Performing a full-body self-examination on your skin regularly is very important, as well as seeing a dermatologist yearly. Those at higher risk for skin cancer should visit a dermatologist more frequently for professional skin exams. Signs and symptoms of melanoma include unusual moles, sores, lumps, blemishes markings, or changes to an area of skin’s appearance or texture.
A routine urinalysis may find small amounts of blood in people with early kidney cancer. Urinalysis can be done during a regular physical exam. People who have a higher risk of kidney cancer due to inherited conditions like Hippel-Lindau disease are encouraged to get regular imaging tests such as CT, MRI or ultrasounds to look for kidney tumors.
Once women reach menopause, they should consult with their physician about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Any vaginal bleeding or spotting during this time should be reported. Some women, at the recommendation of their doctor, may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy.
Thyroid cancer can be found early and treated successfully. If you are experiencing lumps or nodules in your neck, you should see your healthcare provider right away. Blood tests and thyroid ultrasounds can find changes in the thyroid, but should only be done if the individual is at higher risk.
Screening for cervical cancer should start at age 21 with a Pap test. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a test done every 3 years, women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test and an HPV test done every 5 years, women over the age of 65 who have had regular cervical testing done in the past 10 years should stop screenings. All women who have had HPV vaccinations, regardless of age group, should still follow these screening instructions.
These guidelines are for average risk individuals. People with family history or high risk candidates of cancer are recommended to discuss with their health care provider about genetic testing, preventative measures and screening strategies.
Having regular visits with you primary care physician is a great way to stay healthier and watch for potential early signs of cancer. If you are looking for a primary care physician, call our Doctor Matchmaker at 325.481.2343.