Early detection is essential for successful treatment of most cancers. Don’t wait for symptoms. Follow the recommended cancer screening guidelines. These tests and exams may help identify abnormalities that require further study. After further tests these abnormalities may be found not to be cancer.
Men's and women's screening schedules for some common cancers are below.
- Monthly breast self examination
- Annual mammograms after age 40
- Regular clinical breast exams by a healthcare professional every 3 years from age 20 to 39 and every year after age 40
- The American Cancer Society recommends that women who are at increased risk because of family history discuss with their doctor the need for earlier initiation of mammograms and more frequent clinical breast exams, or the need to add a breast ultrasound or MRI test.
The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact during sex.
To help prevent cervical cancer, a vaccine called Gardisil is now available that protects against a virus that causes most cervical cancers. Preteen girls should be immunized before they begin having sexual intercourse. It is also recommended as a “catch up” for women aged 13 to 26, even if they have been sexually active. The vaccine requires a series of three injections over a one-year period.
To detect cervical cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- All women should begin having a Pap test about three years after they start having sex (vaginal intercourse), but no later than age 21.
- The test should be done every year if the regular Pap test is used, or every two years if the newer liquid-based Pap test is used.
- Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal test results in a row may get the test every two to three years.
Risk factors include:
- Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- Family History: Men with one first-degree relative - father, brother or son - with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. Those with two or more relatives are nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed. The risk is even higher if the affected family members were diagnosed before age 60.
- Race: African-American men are 61 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
- Diet: Recent research has shown diet changes might decrease the chances of developing prostate cancer, reduce the likelihood of having a prostate cancer recur or help slow the progression of the disease.
To spot prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Annual digital rectal exams (DRE) starting at age 50
- Annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test starting at age 50
- Men younger than 50 who have a family history of prostate cancer should discuss the screening schedule with their physician.
Men and Women
Beginning at age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk follow one of the screening options below:
- Yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
- Yearly stool blood test plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
- Double contrast barium enema every five years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
Those with risk factors such as a family history of colorectal cancer should discuss the screening schedule with their physician. Earlier or more-frequent screening may be recommended.
If something abnormal is found, a colonoscopy should be done. If any polyps are found they should be removed if possible.
Sun exposure is the major cause of skin cancer in the United States. If you have fair skin and had severe sunburns as a child, you are at increased risk. Schedule regular skin exams by a healthcare professional to detect skin cancer early.
For more information about DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s cancer services or a referral to a Sinai-Grace oncologist, call 313-966-4800.