By: Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology
Your risk of developing cancer can be reduced by choosing healthy lifestyle habits, including a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking—and maintaining regular screenings.
Screenings are designed to look for cancer before you have any signs or symptoms, because, by the time cancer symptoms appear, your cancer may have already progressed and spread.
Regular screenings may help in diagnosing patients before they develop advanced cancer and therefore help lower the number of cancer-related deaths. In this way, finding your cancer at an earlier stage gives us the best chance of successfully treating it.
Scientists continue to develop new tests that can be used to look for specific types of cancer. So remember that if your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not necessarily mean that he or she thinks you have cancer.
Be proactive about your health: Ask your primary care physician or specialist about appropriate screenings during your annual checkups.
Many forms of cancer have their own screening tests. Here are a few of the most common cancer screenings:
Mammography is a type of x-ray that’s designed to find irregularities or tumors in the breast. The images produced are called mammograms. Regular mammograms and breast self exams are one of the most important things a woman can do to catch breast cancer early, when it’s still small and hasn’t spread, making it much easier to treat. Women over the age of 40 should generally start breast cancer screening with mammograms once a year.
Prostate Cancer Screening Tests
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of a substance called PSA. A high PSA level can also be a sign of other conditions that are not cancerous, but a PSA test is critical in prostate cancer screening. From the age of 50 on, men should talk to a physician in order to decide if this kind of testing is right for them.
Cervical Cancer Screening Tests
Pap tests examine cells taken from a woman’s cervix for any precancerous or cancerous changes. This test can also be combined with HPV testing. The Pap test can help find cervical cancer early and can also prevent cancer by identifying precancerous cells so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. The HPV test also finds HPV infections, which can increase the risk of cervical cancer. All women should start with cervical cancer screening from the age of 21.
Skin Cancer Checks & Tests
Some individuals have a higher risk of skin cancer, particularly those with a history of significant, chronic sun exposure, but anyone can get melanoma or other types of skin cancer. Although the American Cancer Society doesn’t have skin cancer screening guidelines, it’s important to know your skin to help find skin cancer early. Regular skin screenings performed by a professional are especially important for patients who are at higher risk of melanoma, including those with:
A history of melanoma
A family history of melanoma
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.