Each year since 2013, President Barack Obama has proclaimed April as National Cancer Control Month. “For generations, the United States has been committed to combating cancer…The overall rate of cancer deaths are decreasing for both men and women, and most survivors live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than ever before. Still, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the United States”.
“All people can take steps to reduce their chances of developing cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, protecting your skin from exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and limiting alcohol consumption can help individual’s live healthier lives. Because cigarettes are a major cause of cancer, quitting smoking and reducing exposure to second-hand smoke can also decrease the risk.”
“When cancer is found in an early stage, it can be easier to treat and chances of survival often increase…Protection under the Affordable Care Act require most insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services without co pay, including some cancer screenings for qualified individuals.”
Many cancer screening tests are in use. Many are available at your local doctor’s office and hospital. Some can even be done at home.
Colon Cancer- Colonoscopies and Sigmoidoscopies can identify early colon cancers. Routine screenings are recommended for those persons 50 to 75 years of age. Another screening that can be done in the doctor’s office is look for occult blood (hidden blood) in the stool; a simple rectal exam and testing the stool for blood.
Lung Cancer- Low-dose helical computed tomography- a specialized test for finding cancer in the lungs; recommended for heavy smokers age 55-74. A visual test for lung cancer screening is to look for blood in your sputum when you cough secretions up out of your lungs.
Breast Cancer- Mammography- This screening test has shown to reduce mortality in women from breast cancer among women ages 40-74. A screening test you can do at home is a BSE (Breast Self Exam). Standing in the shower, simply start at the 12 o’clock position with your fingers and walk your fingers around the breast at all hour positions checking for unusual lumps. You can also stand in front of the mirror and see if each breast is normal in shape. Annual Clinical Breast Exams are also a non-invasive procedure by a medical professional for breast irregularities and have been known to help in early detection.
Cervical Cancer- Pap test and HPV (human papillomavirus) testing- These tests reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by early identification of abnormal cells and have reduced the deaths of women from cervical cancer. Generally, testing is done between age 21 and 65, although circumstances may cause earlier testing.
Liver Cancer- Ultrasound of the liver and a blood test for Alpha-fetoprotein are tests that are used to try to detect Liver Cancer in those that are high risk for the disease.
Testicular Cancer- A male can examine his own genitalia in the shower and feel each testicle for any new irregularities.
Prostate Cancer- The digital rectal exam by a Primary Care Provider is an early detection procedure done right in the doctor’s office. A blood that called a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) has been utilized in routine testing of males for early detection of Prostate Cancer. However, some expert groups no longer recommend it for routine testing as it has not shown a significant change in cancer deaths.
Skin Cancer- People should be aware of changes in their own skin, such as new moles or changes in existing moles and report these to the Primary Care Providers right away. Doctors often recommend routine skin checks of those persons who are at risk for skin cancer; such exams have shown a decrease in the risk of dying from skin cancer.
Ovaries and Uterus- Transvaginal Ultrasounds can create pictures of women’s ovaries and uterus, usually used in women at increased risk of ovarian or uterine cancer. Routine screening with this imaging test has not necessarily shown to reduce death from either cancer, but is a good adjunct in diagnosis.
Some of these screenings can be done by you at home; some can be done right in the doctor’s office. Check with your Primary Care Provider to see which screenings your insurance will pay for and have them done.