The Lifesaving Power of a Cancer Screening

Although you can’t predict what the future holds, the health decisions and actions you make today have the potential to save your life. One action in particular that has the potential to make a big difference? Cancer screenings.

Getting regular cancer screenings is one of the easiest ways to detect cancers during its earliest – and most treatable – stages. Thanks to continued cancer research there are screenings available for many types of cancer. But is every cancer screening right for every person? Not necessarily. Here’s what you need to know about five of the most common cancer screening tests, and whether or not they may be right for you.

There are several factors that go into determining whether or not you should be screened for a specific type of cancer. The most common factors are a personal or family history of cancer, genetic mutations that may make you prone to being diagnosed with cancer, or a history of tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, or diabetes.

  • Breast Cancer – Mammograms remain the best way to detect breast cancers during its earliest stages. It is recommended that women who are at a “normal” risk for breast cancer (no genetic mutations, no personal or family history, not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent) should begin getting annual mammograms by age 45. Starting at age 55, and depending on their specific breast cancer risk, some women can begin getting mammograms every other year. At Main Line Health, we’re proud to offer our patients the option of 3D mammography, which provides a clearer image of the breast and allows health care providers to more accurately pinpoint the size, shape and location of potential breast abnormalities.
  • Cervical Cancer – Getting regular Pap smears and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests can help prevent and detect this type of cancer during its earliest stages. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends women ages 21 to 65 years old get a Pap smear every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 years old can opt for a combination of a Pap smear and HPV testing every five years.
  • Colorectal Cancer – Recent studies have found that colorectal cancer is being diagnosed at younger ages than ever before. While a Colonoscopy is still considered the gold standard for screening for colorectal cancer, it’s now recommended for patients beginning at a younger age. Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society recommended lowering the screening rage for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45. Those at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer should talk to their health care provider about beginning screenings at an earlier age.
  • Lung Cancer – Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer for both men and women. But—until recently—no screening test was available to detect lung cancer. Now, a cancer screening test called low-dose computed tomography is recommended for high-risk lung cancer patients. During the test, an X-ray machine scans your body to create detailed images of your lungs. This screening has been shown to have a risk reduction for cancer by 20 percent. Find out if you qualify to be screened for lung cancer.
  • Prostate Cancer – There has been much debate about whether or not prostate cancer screenings should be required for men. This is because—like some other screening tests—the results are not always accurate and may detect a form of prostate cancer that is slow-growing or does not require treatment. Beginning at age 50 (when your prostate cancer risk begins to increase), men should talk to their doctor about whether a prostate screening test is recommended or necessary. Of course, if you have a family history of prostate cancer, your health care provider may recommend that prostate screenings begin earlier.

Main Line Health is committed to helping people stay healthier, today and tomorrow. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about what health and cancer screenings you should receive. Make an appointment online or call 866-225-5654.

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