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Preventative Cancer Screenings

Health experts agree that detecting cancer early- when its most treatable- is key to a patients’ survival. Touro Family Medicine Physician Dr. Meredith Maxwell explains what preventative cancer screenings are available for men and women and at what ages you should be receiving these screenings.

What are the recommendations for cancer screenings?

Screening guidelines or age recommendations are for people who have an average risk for cancer. If you have an increased risk—due to your family history, for instance—ask your healthcare provider whether you should be screened at an earlier age or more often.

It's important to keep in mind that different organizations have different screening recommendations. Talk with your provider to find out which screenings may be right for you. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of each test.

What are some screenings that both men and women should receive?

Colorectal Cancer is as cancer both women and men should be screened regularly for. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends starting regular screening at age 45, while the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises beginning screening at age 50. Talk with your healthcare provider about the screening schedule that works best for you. Also, ask your provider which test you should have:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy every five years
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test annually
  • Fecal immunochemical test annually
  • Stool DNA test every three years

What cancer screenings are specific to men?

The most common type of cancer found in men is Prostate Cancer. The USPSTF recommends men ages 55 to 69 talk with their healthcare providers about the pros and cons of PSA screening. For men ages 70 and older, the USPSTF advises against screening. Recommendations from other organizations, including the ACS, differ slightly. However, all organizations agree that men should discuss the potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening with their healthcare provider and make informed decisions.

What cancer screenings are specific to women?

For women, screening for Breast Cancer is very important. The USPSTF recommends women get mammograms every other year starting at age 50. However, the ACS advises yearly mammograms for women ages 45 to 54. Women ages 55 and older can then switch to getting mammograms every other year, or they can choose to continue annual screenings.

Women are also encouraged to get screened for Cervical Cancer. women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap test once every 3 years. Women ages 30 to 65 years can choose to have a Pap test every 3 years, an HPV test once every 5 years, or a Pap test and an HPV test once every 5 years. The ACS recommends a different screening schedule, but both organizations note that women older than 65 who have had normal screenings don't need to be screened.

Endometrial Cancer is another cancer that we test for in women that are in menopause. It’s important for women to learn about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer once they reach menopause. If you experience any unexpected bleeding or spotting, be sure to tell your provider. Depending on your health history, they may recommend a yearly endometrial biopsy screening.

What is your recommendation to patient who are interested in getting screened for one of these cancers?

Talk with your healthcare provider. It’s important for you to have a primary care provider that knows your medical history and knows what you may be at risk for to help guide you in the cancer screening process. As a physician, we look at each individual patient and evaluate their health status and family history to provide screening recommendations. Early detection is important for any illness but especially cancer. Routine screening helps detect cancer at an early stage when it is most curable.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were delaying their healthcare needs and postponing regular check-ups and screenings. Patients missing cancer screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic will mean the delay in the detection of cancer for some, meaning it will be more advanced when it's diagnosed.

If a person has delayed seeing a doctor because of the pandemic, I encourage them to make an appointment as soon as possible and find out what tests and screenings they have missed.

If you or someone you know needs a primary care provider, you can visit touro.com/findadoc or call 504.897.7777