Cancer Screenings

The United States preventative service task force has published data on cancer screenings.

Screenings hold great value in that it involves detection of cancer before an individual gets sick with the symptoms of that particular type of cancer. The guidelines published within the USPSTF indicates strongly on each appropriate interventional screening performed routinely among the appropriate patient population.

Some cancer screenings include:

Breast cancer screening is performed routinely and offered starting at age 40 unless if a woman defers until the age of 50. The test used to screen women for breast cancer is called mammography and it is performed every other year. The interval duration during which time this serial imaging study is performed is from the age of 50 to 74 years old in those who have average risk.

Women who are at increased risk for breast cancer include:

  • Ashkenazi Jew descent
  • First degree relatives with breast cancer
  • Family history of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Family history of members who were under the age of 40 and had breast cancer
  • A family history of multiple family members having breast cancer
  • A family history of a member having bilateral breast cancer
  • Genetic factors including the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation

Prostate cancer screening can help in prevention of a cancer that appears in men as they age.

The prostate gland increases in size as men get older leading to elevated PSA levels, a protein released by the prostate gland as well as masses felt during a rectal exam in men.

Prostate cancer is a very slowly growing cancer and may or may not produce symptoms in men emphasizing the importance of screening to monitor timely for any changes in all patients especially in those who do not show symptoms.

The prostate gland cancer screening is usually performed in men age 50 with a digital rectal exam which entails feeling the gland for any masses that might be suspicious of a cancerous growth and a blood test looking for elevated PSA levels.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the United States of America for both men and women. It is cancer of the large intestine and/or rectum. The risk of cancer increases with advancing age and includes other risk factors such as family history, living with a medical disease called ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, dietary factors involving low fiber diet for example, among other factors.

Symptoms of colon cancer can include feeling tired and weak, stomach pain, may produce painful bowel movements and a feeling of incomplete emptying of bowel.

Screening tests include early detection with a stool test to check for blood not visible to our eye or having a colonoscopy vs a sigmoidoscopy. These tests are a way to see the large intestine on a camera as it is advanced into the human large interesting via access through the anal opening. If any area of involvement appears suspicious to the physician performing the scope, then the decision to biopsy can occur at that very instance to send for a pathology report confirming or ruling out this horrible diagnosis.

The frequency of early detection using the different methods are different. The stool test occurs every year while the colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy can occur every 5-10 year interval. The screening for colon cancer is usually known to begin at the age of 50.

This is one method of having treated or cured this cancer by early detection followed by early removal through surgery.

Cervical cancer screening

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus and is prone to developing cancer. The cells of the cervix can change due to exposure to a virus called the human papillomavirus virus (HPV). HPV can be acquired through sexual intercourse and becoming exposed to your partner if they carry this virus. The more sex partners a woman has, the greater the risk of cervical cancer since she is more likely to become exposed to the virus. Another risk factor is having sexual intercourse with men whose previous partners had cervical cancer. The changes of the cervix begins at the surface and can progress or extend to deeper tissues. There may be no symptoms or there may be symptoms including abnormal bleeding, foul smelling vaginal discharge and pelvic pain. A pap smear is a method to screen for cervical cancer. It involves taking a brush and scraping the cells from the surface of the cervix and sending it to lab for a confirmed diagnosis of cell changes. The recommendations are that once a woman has become sexually active to start pap smear and is repeated at an interval of every 3 years when co tested with the HPV virus.


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