Cancer screenings are down due to the pandemic across our system, across the state and across the country. Unfortunately, the data clearly shows that skipping cancer screenings results in more initial diagnoses of advanced cancer.
Cancer screenings are incredibly important. Instead of going to your healthcare provider when you have symptoms, cancer screenings detect any changes in your body before you feel symptoms. That’s why the best time for someone to get screened is when they are feeling great with no symptoms. Once someone has symptoms, we are no longer talking about screenings and instead talking about diagnostic procedures.
In general with cancer, no matter how aggressive the cancer is, if it’s caught in an early stage, it can be cured. It’s really important to discuss with your health care provider the best screening schedule for you based on your family history and other risk factors. The main cancer screenings detect, and in some cases prevent, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.
The following symptoms can be a strong indication of cancer and medical attention should be sought quickly:
- Breast cancer – masses, lumps, tenderness or nipple discharge.
- Colon cancer – gastrointestinal issues, cramping or bleeding with bowel movements.
- Cervical cancer – a heavy menstrual cycle, pain or bleeding after intercourse.
- Prostate cancer – difficulty urinating, urinating frequently and urine retention.
- Lung cancer – persistent coughing.
It is safe to get your screenings since health care facilities take extra measures to help ensure clean and sanitized environments. Getting your screening is something that could certainly change the course of your life. There are plenty of COVID-19 protocols put in place, such as getting COVID-19 testing 24 to 48 hours before any procedure, consistent monitoring and vaccine availability.
The best cancer screening programs include services to make sure they are accessible to all. Those services may include assistance with transportation or other barriers that might make it difficult for someone to access cancer screenings. It is so important to have conversations with your health care providers. Everyone should feel empowered to take charge of their health care and improve their health and well-being.
Cancer Screening Guidelines
- Women in their 20s and 30s: breast exam at least every three years.
- Women ages 40 and older: an annual breast exam and an annual mammogram.
- Women ages 21 to 29: Pap test every three years.
- Women ages 30 to 65: Pap test every three years OR combined Pap test and HPV tests every five years.
- Men and women ages 45 and older: begin screening and then have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
- Men age 40: talk with your doctor to make an informed decision on testing based on personal risk factors.
- Men and women ages 50 to 80 with a high risk of lung cancer: ask your doctor if you could benefit from a lung cancer screening.
Learn more about cancer screenings and cancer care at ProMedica.