For many people, cancer can be a looming worry. Everyone knows a friend or relative who has dealt with cancer personally–some successfully and others perhaps not. The thought of getting cancer can be especially worrisome to people whose immediate family members have had cancer, as some types of cancer have a hereditary component.
Thankfully, you are not left without some recourse when it comes to worrying about whether you may have cancer. There are a number of screening tests today that can tell you not only whether you have cancer but whether you are predisposed to contracting certain types of cancer or have precancerous symptoms.
Experience shows that, as a general rule, the earlier you find cancer, the better the prognosis for overcoming it. As part of your preventative health measures, consider embarking on a regular schedule of routine screening tests for potentially serious health problems, including various types of cancer.
Common Cancer Screenings
Doctors typically follow established standards for recommended screenings based on factors such as biological sex, age, and medical history of you and your family members. If you haven’t spoken to your doctor yet about getting screened for cancer, now is an excellent time to learn about these standard tests and call to schedule an appointment if appropriate. Here are a few of the cancer tests you might consider.
Colorectal screenings can detect precancerous polyps, a common precursor to cancer development. While many providers use colonoscopies for early detection, there are other options. For example, stool testing and CT colonography are two non-invasive procedures that can be used.
Most adults over 45 should consider having an initial colorectal cancer screening. People who meet the following guidelines should undergo earlier or more frequent testing as a means of colon cancer prevention:
- Family history of polyps or colon cancer
- Certain types of inflammatory bowel diseases
- Specific genetic disorders that increase your chance of developing colon cancer
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screenings for adults between 50 and 80 with a smoking history. Comprehensive lung cancer treatment plans like those used at Beacon Cancer Care help improve your prognosis, especially if a diagnosis is reached early in the disease’s progression.
Most women between the ages of 21 and 65 should get screened annually for cervical cancer. Clinicians have two standard screening tools: Pap smears or HPV (human papillomavirus) tests. The former detects precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix’s lining, while the latter detects the presence of the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. These tests can be done independently or together and can easily be undertaken in an office visit.
Women over 40 (or younger if there is a family history of breast cancer) should consider annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer. However, breast cancer doesn’t only strike women, so men with concerns should talk to their providers to discuss screening options as well. There are also some genetic markers for breast cancer, so you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a genetic screening test. This genetic test may help not only with breast cancer but with some other types of cancer that have been linked to genetic factors.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men. Thankfully, the prognosis is good for most men who get prostate cancer; cancer progresses so slowly in some cases that no treatment at all will be needed, particularly in elderly men. However, at other times, prostate cancer can be more aggressive. An early indicator of prostate cancer is a high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) number indicated by a simple blood test. For this reason, most doctors will request the specific panel that identifies PSA levels when ordering lab blood work as part of a regular physical exam for men over the age of 55. Men who are experiencing any problem with their prostate, however, should see a doctor to find out whether the cause of their problems may be prostate cancer.
Benefits of Early Detection and Treatment
Cancer treatment has made great strides over the past several decades, and there are constant innovations when it comes to the detection and treatment of all types of cancer. Nevertheless, the best approach for nearly any health ailment, including cancer, is prevention and early detection. Patients whose cancers are detected early have more treatment options, greater control over their care decisions, and, often, better outcomes. It is important to give yourself the best chance of success in treating cancer.
At Beacon Cancer Care, we know that a cancer diagnosis can feel devastating, but many of the current treatments used today are more effective with fewer toxicities and side effects than options available in the past. The skilled staff at Beacon provides integrative and compassionate care when you need it most. We can assist in scheduling genetic testing and connecting you with a genetic counselor when appropriate. Additionally, our offices in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls are centrally located and offer easy access to additional medical services in the area. Contact Beacon Cancer Care today to learn more about cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment options.