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Don't Forget to Screen for Cancer!

Do you know anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer? Have you ever wondered how you can detect cancer earlier, hopefully before it has spread throughout your body?

This blog post will discuss the current cancer screening guidelines as published by the United States Preventive Services Taskforce and how you can stay up to date with doing your best to catch cancer before it spreads.

Cancer is a disease where small parts of our bodies, called cells, start to grow and make copies of themselves much faster than healthy cells. If not stopped early, the group of cells will grow much larger and spread to other parts of the body, causing you to become very sick.

Finding cancer earlier in this process can lead to a better chance of a cure for some patients. For this reason, doctors and scientists have been researching how to best detect cancer sooner for many years. The process of attempting to detect cancer sooner in a patient without cancer symptoms is called ‘screening.’ We will begin by discussing recommendations for cancer screening with more robust research.

Colorectal Cancer [Large Intestine]

  • We recommend discussing with your doctor how to start screening for colorectal cancer starting at 45 years of age. Research shows that screening for colorectal cancer up until at least 75 years of age and in select cases after that age has more significant benefits than risks.

  • If you have not done colorectal cancer screening before 75 years of age, we recommend discussing with your doctor whether they would recommend having screening performed.

A summary of recommended screening tests includes:

  • Colonoscopy screening once every 10 years if normal findings during the test

  • Stool testing once every 1-3 years through different methods with normal results.

Discuss with your doctor which of these or other available tests are right for you. It is important to note that this recommendation applies to adults 45 years or older at average risk of colorectal cancer and who do not have symptoms associated with it.

Lung Cancer

  • Lung cancer screening begins at the age of 50 up to 80. Screening is for adults with a 20-pack-year smoking history who continue to smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. It is important to note that one pack-year of smoking history equals smoking one pack per day for one year.

The current recommendation for how to screen for lung cancer is as below:

  • The current recommendation for lung cancer screening involves an annual low-dose chest CT scan. The procedure uses a computer linked to an x-ray with lower dose radiation that produces detailed images of the lungs.

We recommend talking with your doctor starting at 50 years old if lung cancer screening is right for you.

Cervical Cancer

  • Cervical cancer screening is recommended for all women starting at 21 years of age up until 65 years of age.

  • Women older than 65 who have had adequate screening and are not at elevated risk for cervical cancer no longer need screening.

  • Other groups that no longer require screening include; women who have had a hysterectomy with the cervix removed without a history of a high-grade precancerous lesion and without prior history of cervical cancer.

The current recommendation for how to screen for cervical cancer for women over 30 years of age:

  • A pap smear with combination testing of high-risk HPV [Human Papilloma Virus] and testing of the cells of the cervix [cytology] once every five years if normal

  • Other options include high-risk HPV testing every five years or cytology alone every three years if normal.

We recommend discussing with your doctor what is suitable for you and whether to continue with screening after 65 years old for you.

Breast Cancer

  • Current recommendations are that women of ages 50 to 74 have screening for breast cancer.

  • We recommend discussing with your doctor whether you would benefit from breast cancer screening before 50 or after 74 years of age.

The current recommendation for how to perform screening is as follows:

  • The recommendation for breast cancer is that all women in the age range without prior history of breast cancer or abnormal mammogram have a mammogram performed every other year for screening.

Prostate Cancer

Screening for prostate cancer is not routinely recommended for all men at this time due to a low grade of evidence supporting this benefit. However, for men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo screening with a periodic PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test should be an individual discussion between the patient and their doctor.

Cancers With Recommendations Against Screening

There are also recommendations against screening for other cancers due to an inaccurate ability to detect them reliably with current technology, which can lead to the potential harm to both health and finances if acting on false-positive results or not receiving benefits from the testing.

  • Pancreatic Cancer

  • Ovarian Cancer

  • Testicular Cancer

  • Thyroid Cancer

  • Brain Cancer

Cancers Without Sufficient Data

Currently, available research is insufficient for some cancers to assess the balance of benefits and potential harms of screening for them. Therefore, recommending screening for the following types of cancers is more complicated. We recommend discussing the screening of these with your doctor on a case-by-case basis.

  • Skin Cancer

  • Oral (Mouth) Cancer

  • Bladder Cancer

As a reminder, this information is not a substitute for discussing your health with your doctor and receiving recommendations for appropriate cancer screening.

Check out other posts on GeriAcademy!

Post By, Dr. William Costello DO


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