Cancer screenings are an opportunity to detect cancer before you develop symptoms. These screenings can also detect conditions that may develop into cancer.
According to estimates by the National Cancer Institute, doctors will diagnose 1,685,210 cases of cancer in 2016, and the disease will claim 595,690 lives this year. Having cancer screening tests done regularly may find several types of cancers early, before they spread and while treatment is most likely to be effective.
Types of Cancer Screenings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports screenings for breast, colorectal, cervical and other types of cancer as recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), a volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.
If you are a woman aged 50 to 74 and have an average risk for breast cancer, the USPSTF recommends you have a mammogram every two years. If you are aged 40 to 49, talk with a healthcare professional about when to start regular mammograms.
The USPSTF recommends regular screening for colon cancer after the age of 50, with frequency of testing depending on your personal or family medical history. Screening may include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing.
A Pap test checks for changes to cells of the cervix that might someday develop into cervical cancer. The HPV test looks for the human papilloma virus (HPV) that can cause other types of cancer.
The USPSTF also suggests lung cancer screenings for those at high risk for the disease. People between 55 and 80 years old with a history of heavy smoking, who are current smokers or who have quit within the past 15 years should undergo screening with computed tomography (CT).
Risks of Cancer Screening
As with many medical procedures, cancer screening can be beneficial, but it can also be harmful. Some types of screening present a risk for bleeding or other health problems, for example.
A screening test may return a false-positive result, which means the test indicated the presence of cancer when there was not one. False-positive results lead to anxiety along with more aggressive testing and procedures that present an even greater risk for complications.
Cancer screening can also return a false-negative result that fails to detect the presence of cancer. This can lead to false reassurance along with delayed diagnosis and lifesaving treatment.
Overdiagnosis and overtreatment are possible. Overdiagnosis occurs when a test correctly detects the presence of cancer, but the cancer grows so slowly that it would not have harmed the person during their lifetime. Overdiagnosis leads to overtreatment, in which treatment was not necessary for such a slow-growing cancer.
Choosing the right cancer specialists for your cancer care team is essential for a proper diagnosis. These cancer specialists, known as oncologists, receive special training that helps them detect cancer safely and accurately.
For more information about cancer screening, contact Revere Health. Our dedicated team of oncology professionals provides the cancer screening and treatment you need in four convenient locations throughout Utah. Contact Revere Health by calling (801) 429-8000.