According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2022. Over 600,000 of these cases will result in cancer deaths. Early detection and treatment of cancer are becoming increasingly important as cancer diagnoses continue to rise.
Routine cancer screenings allow for the early detection of cancer and reduce the chances of death from cancer. When cancer is detected early, necessary treatments can begin earlier and treatments are more likely to be successful. Today, there are a number of cancer screenings available. Knowing what screenings exist and the guidelines for each can help you stay on top of cancer prevention.
What Cancer Screenings Are There?
Although not all cancers have screening tests, it’s important for both men and women to know which cancer screenings are available and the guidelines for them. Below are the most recommended cancer screenings deemed effective by experts.
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American women. There are several breast cancer screenings and testing, however, mammograms continue to remain the most effective screening for early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms use low-dose x-ray to look for changes in breast tissue.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Pap and HPV tests are given to help detect and prevent cervical cancer. Pap tests, also called Pap smears, detect precancerous cells on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if left untreated. HPV tests detect the virus human papillomavirus that can lead to these changes in the cells.
Colorectal cancer screenings aim to detect precancerous polyps to allow for removal before they turn into cancer. If cancer is already present, screening allows for earlier detection and treatment. The most common screenings for colorectal cancer include:
- Stool Tests
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
- CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)
The colonoscopy is currently the most effective test available for colon cancer screening. This procedure allows your doctor to view the entire colon and remove polyps and abnormal tissue during the exam.
Lung Cancer Screening
Currently, the only test recommended for lung cancer screening is an LDCT, or low-dose computed tomography. LDCTs use low doses of radiation to generate detailed images of the lungs. These tests are important for current smokers or people who have a history of smoking.
How Do I Know What Cancer Screenings to Get and When?
There may be slight differences between the recommendations of different organizations when it comes to cancer screening. Below are the general global guidelines for common cancer tests. Your personal cancer risk will also influence recommendations.
Women are encouraged to have annual mammograms at ages 45-54. Women who have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may undergo screening at 40 or sooner. At ages 55 and above, you may continue screening every 2 years.
Pap and HPV Testing
Women ages 21 through 29 should generally be screened with a Pap test every 3 years. Women ages 30 through 65 should be screened with any of three tests:
- HPV testing every 5 years
- Pap test along every 3 years
- Pap and HPV cotesting every 5 years
Certain risk factors may require more frequent screening or extended screening beyond age 65.
Colonoscopies are recommended for individuals aged 45-75 years. If test results show no signs of cancer, a colonoscopy can be done every 10 years. Testing may need to be done more frequently if you have a history of polyp removal. Individuals aged 76 to 85 are recommended to consult with their doctor about the pros and cons of screening.
Low-Dose Computed Tomography
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. For early detection and treatment of lung cancer. It is commonly recommended that individuals who meet the following criteria begin cancer screening.
- Are 50 to 80 years old and in fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years
- Have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history.
Your Primary Care Doctor: Your Partner in Health
The first step to starting a cancer screening program is to consult with your doctor. Genetic markers, lifestyle factors, and your personal and family health history may affect when and how often you start testing. In addition, continual research and advancements in cancer screening cause guidelines to change.
If your risk of developing cancer is higher, you may want to start getting screenings earlier than recommended. When meeting with your doctor, they’ll help you schedule the correct screenings based on your personal risk factors and health history. Additionally, they’ll make sure you stay on schedule with regular screenings.
Questions to ask your Primary Care Doctor About Cancer Screenings
Knowing what cancer tests to undergo and how often you should have them can be confusing, as different organizations’ cancer screening guidelines can differ. In addition, your family health history and personal risk factors may affect your qualifications for testing. Asking your doctor the questions below can assist you in determining which cancer screening plan is best for you.
- What type of cancer screening tests are recommended for me?
- At what ages should I be screened and how often?
- What does the test detect?
- How do I prepare for the test?
- How is the test conducted?
- Does the test have any risks?
- When will I receive the results of my test?
- How will you contact me about the test results?(email, phone, online health portal)
- Who should I contact if I do not receive my test results?
If the results are abnormal, what happens?
Find a Primary Care Doctor at White Rock Medical Group
Keeping up with preventive screenings recommended by your doctor is key to catching potential issues early. Advances in technology and a greater use of cancer screenings have led to earlier and more successful treatment of cancer.
At White Rock Medical Center, cancer screenings and diagnostics are an integral part of our mission to provide high-quality, comprehensive cancer care to the Dallas community. White Rock Medical Group physicians offer a number of cancer screenings, along with personalized, compassionate primary care services for a variety of conditions.