Most of us likely know someone who’s died of cancer. It’s a terrible disease that’s claimed far too many lives. But we have one weapon in the fight against cancer that doesn’t always get enough attention: screenings.
At Arlington Family Practice in Arlington, Massachusetts, one of our top goals is to keep you in good health by practicing preventive care. Read on to find out more about how we use cancer screenings to prevent this disease from hurting even more people.
What are cancer screenings?
The aim of a cancer screening is to detect cancer early, before it has a chance to do much damage and when it may be easier to treat successfully.
You may not have symptoms yet, but that’s the point: By following the recommended screening guidelines, you’re looking for cancer that would otherwise go undetected until it may be too late.
Here are a few of the common screenings:
Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps in the colon. A colonoscopy or other test can find and remove these polyps before they become cancer. About 90% of cases occur in adults 50 and over, so guidelines call for you to be screened regularly beginning at 50.
Millions of people aren’t getting properly screened for colon cancer — don’t be one of them, especially when early treatment is so effective.
Mammography is the most common test to screen for breast cancer. In general, women 50 and over should be screened every two years and those 40-49 should talk with their doctor about when to start.
Women at high risk for breast cancer — if you have certain genetic characteristics or a family history — may begin screening even earlier. For these women, an MRI scan may be used for the screening.
Men ages 55-69 should discuss screening for prostate cancer with their doctor. A blood test can measure prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in your blood. This level is typically higher in men who have prostate cancer, although other factors can affect the level as well.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and in the United States, nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Having a skin exam to check for skin cancer hasn’t been shown to reduce the risk of dying from skin cancer, but it can save you time and treatments.
The easiest screening test is simply a visual exam to check for moles or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture.
If you notice a change in your skin that’s causing you to worry, check with your doctor about what to do. If a skin exam finds an abnormal area, a biopsy gives your provider the information they need to treat you.
To set up a consultation to find out more about cancer screenings, contact our expert team at Arlington Family Practice by phone — or use our convenient online scheduler. Don’t put off this important task. You just might save your own life.