How Often Should You Get Screened for Cancer?
Cancer screenings are a vital part of preventative care. These tests help find cancer early on when the chances for successfully treating the disease are the most effective. Find out which cancer screenings may be right for you based on age, gender, and family history.
Types of Cancer Screenings
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control support screening for breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, colon, and lung cancer. Each form of cancer requires a different type of screening. With this, it also requires a different frequency of testing. That said, there are other tests for less common cancers that the patient or their doctor can also request.
Breast Cancer Screening
Beginning at age 25, women should have a clinical breast exam every one to three years. Women between 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when to start screening and how often to get mammograms. A mammogram is a breast X-ray and is the most effective way to detect breast cancer early. Women over the age of 40 years old should have a mammogram done at least every year.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Women and other patients should start getting Pap or HPV tests at age 21. Then, if a patient's Pap smear result is normal, they only need to get screened every three years. After they turn 30 and have had at least three normal results in a row, they can choose to get the Pap or HPV screening every five years. The difference between the two tests is that the Pap smear looks for cell changes on the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer if not treated. Meanwhile, the HPV test looks for the virus that could cause this cellular change.
It is possible to conduct both tests in a doctor's office or clinic. During the Pap smear, the doctor collects cells to send to a laboratory. An HPV test can occur simultaneously by collecting cells and testing for the virus.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, usually develops from precancerous polyps in the colon or the rectum. Screening tests can detect precancerous polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Regular screening should start at age 50 and is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. Several colorectal cancer screening tests are available, including stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography.
The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test uses the chemical guaiac to detect blood in the stool. It is done annually with a test kit the patient receives from their doctor. In the privacy of their home, patients use a stick or brush to take a small stool sample. They then return the test kit to their doctor or a lab.
The doctor inserts a short, thin tube into the patient's rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the lower third of the colon. This test is recommended every five to ten years.
A colonoscopy is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor checks throughout the entire colon. During the test, the doctor removes most polyps and some cancers. A colonoscopy is also used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests. Patients should schedule this test every ten years.
CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)
Computed tomography colonography, also called a virtual colonoscopy, uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon. These are displayed on a computer screen for the doctor to analyze. Doctors recommend scheduling this test every five years.
Lung Cancer Screening
There is one screening test for lung cancer. It uses low-dose computed tomography to scan the longs. The doctor can then analyze the produced image. A yearly lung cancer screening is best for people who:
- Have a history of heavy smoking
- Are currently smoking or quit only within the last 15 years
- Are between 55 and 80 years old
Prostate Cancer Screening
Screening for prostate cancer begins with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which is a type of blood test. Beginning at age 45, patients should speak with their doctor about this test. PSA levels will indicate how often patients should test for prostate cancer. This test measures the PSA levels in the blood. The higher the level of PSA in the blood, the higher the risk of prostate cancer.
Schedule an Appointment
Cancer is one of the scariest and most stressful experiences that a person can go through during their life. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve those feelings of fear with regular cancer screenings. Our team can help ease your stress and answer any questions or concerns. If you would like to learn more about any of the tests mentioned above, call our office for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Request an appointment here: https://lindenbergcancer.com or call Lindenberg Cancer & Hematology Center at (856) 475-0876 for an appointment in our Marlton office.
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