- Cancer screening is key to early detection and treatment of the disease.
- This is because early stages are most treatable, but usually, don’t show any outward symptoms.
- Some of the cancers that should be on the top of your screening list are cancer of the breast, cervix, colon, and lungs.
Cancer was expected to be the cause of death for around 610,000 people last year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). A lot of these deaths could have been prevented through earlier detection. The national board scientific officer of the ACS, Dr. Carmen Guerra, said that detecting cancer in its early stages is “critical” because it’s when it is most treatable. Unfortunately, it’s usually also during the early stages that there are no symptoms or signs of the disease.
Guerra encourages that people familiarize themselves with the guidelines of the ACS and recommends that these four cancers are placed on top of the list when it comes to screening
1. Breast Cancer
The recommended age for yearly mammograms for women is 45-54, but you can start as early as 40. Even though you don’t have an increased risk for this cancer, you should follow these guidelines. Guerra says more than 90% of cases occur in those without a family history of breast cancer. After 55, women can dial down to a mammogram every other year.
Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer should consult their doctors about their options for screening, like an MRI
2. Cervical Cancer
All women should start screening with a Pap smear at the age of 21. This should be done every 3 years until the age of 29. At age 30-65, the pap smear can be done every 5 years along with an HPV test. If the screenings from the last 10 years were normal, screening can stop by age 65.
3. Colon Cancer
Screening for this can actually both detect and prevent colon cancer. Polyps that are found can develop into cancer and can be removed. Though ACS guidelines previously recommended that a person should have a colonoscopy starting at age 50, that age has recently been lowered to 45, continuing to age 75. Though the recommendation is to be screened once every 10 years, that may be tweaked by your healthcare provider. Screening should stop by the time you reach 85.
4. Lung Cancer
Lung cancer causes more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers put together. The recommended age for screening is 55-74 years old. Screening involves a low-dose CAT scan of the chest. This should also be done by those who smoke or have smoked in the past 15 years, even if they quit. Guerra also suggests smoking cessation counseling in addition to screening.
Reminder: Though screening is a good way to detect cancer early, you should also be wary about over-screening. Aside from more time spent and additional costs, over-screening can have harmful effects on your health. One example is exposure to radiation when you have mammograms.