Why It’s Risky to Procrastinate on Cancer Screenings
posted by Cancer Care Team | September 6, 2016
You’re hyper-vigilant about adhering to the dietary and lifestyle habits shown to help prevent cancer. You walk every day, have regular dental cleanings, eat your nuts and prioritize good sleep. But are you on top of your routine cancer screenings?
Although some types of cancer currently do not have an effective screening method, medical advances over the last several decades have developed tests that allow doctors to find many tumors in the earliest stages, before signs or symptoms even appear. Cancer screenings help to reduce the number of people who develop a disease and reduce the number of deaths. So why don’t many people take advantage of these painless and often quick cancer screenings?
“A mammogram takes moments . . . breast cancer takes lives.”
Many women feel that they are too busy to have a routine mammogram, but as author Keith Testa remarks, “If you don’t have time for the screening, I’m a bit concerned how cancer might cramp your schedule.”
Some women skip screenings because they feel fit and healthy, or maybe they fear a painful experience. Others are actually so afraid of a breast cancer diagnosis that they avoid mammograms, as counterintuitive as that sounds. Women who have had a false positive result – one where something is seen on the mammogram but turns out not to be cancer – are reluctant to return. However, most
women called back for a false positive result do not have breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is the second most common newly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S.,” reports the American Cancer Society. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
Mammography is effective at finding breast cancer, especially in women ages 50 and older. It correctly identifies about 84 percent of women who truly have breast cancer, and it’s a quick and painless test. If a woman is concerned about pain, she can schedule the exam after her monthly period, when breast tissue is less sensitive, and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen before the mammogram.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S, and the third most common cause of cancer in both men and women. The good news? It is both preventable and treatable through routine screenings.
It’s understandable that most of us would prefer not to undergo a flexible sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema, or a colonoscopy – but screening saves lives, and it’s infinitely more pleasant than dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Less than one third of people who should have colorectal screenings actually do so, but experts recommend that every American undergo regular screening tests starting at the age of 50. African-Americans are especially at high risk.
Stool DNA tests and fecal occult blood tests look for blood in the feces, which can indicate polyps (precancerous growths) or cancer. These painless and quick tests help a doctor decide whether a colonoscopy is needed.
Remember: “More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers can be cured w
hen caught in the earliest stages, before symptoms appear.” If left untreated, “a cancerous growth may invade into or through the muscular wall of the intestine, or spread through the lymphatic system or the bloodstream to other parts of the body. At this stage, the chance of cure is much reduced.”
“Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women.”
But over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has decreased by more than 50 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. The reason? The Pap test. This screening procedure that takes only seconds to perform is able to detect changes in the cervix before cancer develops, and it finds cervical cancer early, when it’s most curable.
The American Cancer Society estimates that for 2016 in the U.S.:
If cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed early, there’s a good chance they never develop into invasive cervical cancer. Do you have questions about which cancer screenings are appropriate for you? Revere Health’s Cancer Care department offers individualized care based on your unique health history and medical needs. Our large network of oncology providers offer the latest in cancer screening technologies and personalized treatment plans.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.