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It’s Time to Get Screened

It’s Time to Get Screened

Summer—the season when most people have a little extra downtime to enjoy the things they love like trips to the beach, laying by the pool, and spending time outside. But while vacation is on the top of your mind, you should also be thinking about your health. When you find extra time this summer, make your health a priority by getting screened for cancers.

Screenings may find cancer before you have symptoms. Regular screenings give you the best chance of early detection and treatment. In some cases, like with colon and rectal cancer, regular screenings can actually prevent the disease by catching it before it develops. To put it simply: screenings save lives. Here, we’ll go over the basics of screenings for a few of the most common cancers in the U.S.—breast, colon and rectal, prostate, and lung.

Breast Cancer

About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease, so screenings are vital. And when breast cancer is found in its early stages, it’s typically easier to treat successfully.

Who?

All women over the age of 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you should start screenings five years before the youngest age a family member was diagnosed. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, you would start screenings at 35.

What?

Breast cancer screenings are mammograms. During the screening, a technologist will place your breast on the mammogram machine. A plastic upper plate will compress your breast for about 10 to 15 seconds for each x-ray. You may experience slight discomfort, but no pain. The entire process takes about 20 minutes.

How often?

According to the American Cancer Society, once you start getting mammograms, you should get one every year until age 54. Women 55 and older can switch to every two years.

Colon & Rectal Cancer

According to the New York State Health Department, if men and women followed colon and rectal cancer screening guidelines, 33,000 lives would be saved each year. The good news is that the death rate from colon and rectal cancer has decreased by 56% since 1970 due to increased screenings.

Who?

People of average risk should start screenings at age 45. You may need to be tested earlier than 45 or more often than average if you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis or a family history of colon and rectal cancer or polyps. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

What?

There are a few different screening tests available for colon and rectal cancer. These include at-home stool sample tests and colonoscopies. The most common is a colonoscopy, where a flexible tube with a camera on the end is inserted into your rectum. This lets your doctor see if there are any abnormalities inside your colon.

How often?

Screening frequency depends on your risk and test type, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults aged 45 to 75 should be screened about every five to 10 years. The decision to be screened after 76 should be made on an individual basis.

Prostate Cancer

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. But out of every 1,000 men screened for prostate cancer, seven lives are saved. The symptoms of prostate cancer are often overlooked or attributed to different conditions, so screenings are the best way to detect the disease.

Who?

Screening for prostate cancer is a personal decision that should be discussed with your doctor. Men aged 55 to 69 should consider being screened. Black men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Your doctor may recommend screening if you are:

  • Age 40 with a family history of prostate cancer
  • Age 45 and Black
  • Age 50 with no family history

What?

Multiple prostate cancer screenings are available, including a physical exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which checks your blood for high PSA levels, a marker for prostate cancer.

How often?

For a man of average risk, typically every two to three years is enough. Depending on the results of your first PSA test, your doctor may recommend you get screened more or less frequently.

Lung Cancer

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer screening finds 80% of lung cancer at an early stage when it’s more curable. Without screening, 70% of lung cancers are found at a later stage when there is little chance for a cure. Lung cancer symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is advanced, so getting screened is extremely important.

Who?

Screening is recommended for people who are at higher risk of lung cancer. This includes people who are 55 to 79 years old and are a current or former smoker who smoked at least 30 pack years.

What?

A lung CT scan shows your doctor cross-sectional images of your body, including heart and lung tissue. Frederick Health offers a lung CT cancer screening program that allows your healthcare team to develop appropriate follow-up care based on your results.

How often?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that those who fit the above requirements are screened every year. Based on your individual health status and circumstances, your doctor may recommend screenings more or less frequently.

Put your health first this summer. Talk to your Primary Care provider about what screenings you need.