February is often associated with love, learn how you can care for yourself this month. Many forms of cancer can be effectively treated when detected in the earlier stages. Screening programs have become more common and have significantly led to a decrease in mortality rates.
The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended for individuals at average risk for developing cancer. People who are at increased risk for certain cancers are encouraged to follow a different screening schedule. Risk factors often include family history, certain genetic mutations, lifestyle, age, and gender. Those who may be considered at higher risk should discuss risk factors and early detection guidelines with a primary care physician.
Several tests and exams, such as mammograms and self-breast examinations, can be utilized to detect abnormalities of the breast. Women are encouraged to begin scheduling annual mammograms starting at age 40. Physicians recommend exams continue for as long as a woman is in good health.
Self-breast examinations and periodic clinical breast evaluations are also recommended for women between the ages of 20 and 30. Medical professionals advise women to schedule a clinical breast exam every two to three years beginning at age 20. In addition to mammograms, women age 40 and older should have one every year. Self-breast examinations should be performed once a month by women of all age groups. Click here to learn more about the James Graham Brown Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Men and women over age 50 should have an annual fecal occult blood testing exam. This test looks for microscopic evidence of blood in the stool. If blood is detected, further procedures will be conducted to pinpoint the exact cause of bleeding.
The most effective way to diagnose colon and rectal cancers is with a colonoscopy. The procedure examines the colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. This exam is generally recommended every 10 years. People considered to be in a high risk category should begin screening earlier or have screening more often.
Uterine cancer is the most common of all gynecologic cancers and is the most easily detected and cured. This form of cancer is most often diagnosed in women after menopause. However, women are still at risk before going through menopause.
Uterine cancer is usually detected early because it often causes symptoms such as abnormal bleeding in a patient who has been through menopause or between normal periods prior to menopause. Unfortunately, symptoms do not always appear and women are encouraged to schedule annual medical exams. Additionally, women with or at high risk for hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer should be offered endometrial biopsies beginning at age 35. Click here to learn more about the Brown Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Genitourinary Clinic.
Early cervical precancerous conditions or cancers often have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms usually only appear once the cancer has progressed. Annual tests and exams, such as the Pap test, are utilized to detect abnormalities and identify unusual cells in the cervix. Women should begin screening approximately three years after becoming sexually active, but no later than 21 years of age. Until the age of 30, testing should be performed annually using the regular Pap test or every two years using the new liquid based Pap test.
Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may choose to be screened every two to three years. Other factors may require continued annual exams.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. Two researchers at the Brown Cancer Center were part of the original team that developed the world’s first 100 percent effective cervical cancer vaccine by protecting women against the two strains of HPV that cause 75 percent of all cervical cancer cases. The vaccine, Gardasil®, now being marketed by Merck and Co., Inc., was made available to women in the summer of 2006. Approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) was one of the quickest recommendations in recent history. The vaccine was approved to be routinely administered to girls when they are 11-12 years old. The ACIP recommendation also allows for vaccination of girls beginning at nine years old as well as vaccination of girls and women 13-26 years old. Click here to learn more about the Brown Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Gynecologic Oncology Clinic.
Prostate cancer can often be diagnosed early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a patient’s blood. Digital rectal exams (DRE) are another way doctors are able to check for unusual changes in the prostate.
The PSA blood test and DRE are recommended annually for men, beginning at age 50 and who do not have any major medical problems. Individuals who are considered to be at high risk should begin testing sooner.
Many physicians urge individuals aged 20 and older to schedule periodic cancer-related checkups. Examinations may vary according to the person’s age, gender, and other factors, but often consist of testing for cancers of the skin, oral cavity, lymph nodes, and other non-malignant diseases.
Please call the Kentucky Cancer Program at (502) 852-6318 or the Brown Cancer Center’s Mint Jubilee Resource Center at (502) 562-4158 or (866) 530-5516 for more information on cancer screenings.