Cancer screenings can help detect cancer in the early stages or before you begin to have symptoms. February is Cancer Prevention Month, and it’s a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of cancer screenings. Detecting cancer early may give you a better chance of surviving and thriving. Keeping up with preventive screenings your doctor recommends is key to catching potential issues such as breast, cervical, prostate, endometrial, and colorectal cancer before they turn into something worse. This month, let’s take a look at the importance of cancer screenings and how they can help us in our fight against this disease.
Who determines when to get screened?
Created in 1984, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve all Americans’ health by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.
Task Force members come from a wide array of medical-related fields. That history of experience includes primary care, internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing. This team rigorously reviews existing peer-reviewed evidence to make recommendations for screenings. This process can help primary care clinicians and patients decide whether a preventive service is right for a patient’s needs.
Cancer Screening Guidelines
The following cancer screening guidelines are for people with an average risk for cancer. You may need screenings earlier or more often if you have an increased risk due to your family history. It would be best to speak to your doctor to see what’s right for you.
Breast Cancer Screenings
Yearly mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer’s early stages when it is easier to treat. The USPSTF recommends women get mammograms at the following ages:
Ages 45 to 54: once every year
Ages 55 and older: once every other year
It is important to note that women with a heightened breast cancer risk should ask their doctors about the risks and benefits of an annual MRI and mammogram.
Cervical Cancer Screenings
The Pap test can find abnormal cells in the cervix, which may turn into cancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. The chance of being cured is very high when the Pap tests find cervical cancer early.
The USPSTF recommends women get a Pap test at the following ages:
Ages 21 to 29: once every three years
Ages 30 to 65:
- once every three years
- an HPV test once every five years
- or a Pap test and an HPV test once every five years
Women older than 65: Those with normal screenings and who do not have a high risk for cervical cancer may not need screening.
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends people with an average risk for colorectal cancer start regular cancer screenings at age 45. Simultaneously, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises beginning screening at age 50. Those with an increased risk for colorectal cancer due to family history may need cancer screenings at an earlier age.
Discuss with your doctor which of the following tests are recommended by the USPSTF:
- Colonoscopy: once every ten years with no signs of cancer on the first screening
- Stool DNA test: once every three years
- Double-contrast barium enema: once every five years
- Fecal immunochemical test: once a year
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: once every five years
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test: once a year
Endometrial Cancer Screenings
Endometrial cancer forms in the lining of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is often cured by early detection and surgical removal of the uterus. After reaching menopause, women who have abnormal bleeding or spotting should tell their doctors. Your doctor may order cancer screenings to help detect endometrial cancer.
Prostate Cancer Screenings
When men reach 55 to 69, the USPSTF recommends discussing the potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screenings with their physicians to help make informed decisions. After the age of 70, the USPSTF advises against men getting screened.
At Personally Delivered, we hope your lifelong health journey never includes a cancer diagnosis. Whatever your age or medical history, maintaining an open and close relationship with your physician will help keep track of your long-term health.
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All recommendations for cancer screenings and more detailed information from the USPSTF can be found directly on their site.
Disclaimer: Important Notice Regarding Medical Advice
The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.