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A New Year’s Resolution with Lifetime Benefits

By Dennis R. Holmes, M.D.

Would you believe it if I told you that you could prevent yourself from dying from cancer? Though this might sound fanciful, for the most part it’s true! Most cancer deaths are completely preventable. The answer is found in cancer screening.

Cancer of the lung, breast, colon, and prostate are the most common causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.  Although lung cancer is notoriously difficult to detect early, cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate may be easily detected with cancer screening.

Cancer screening is the process of looking for developing cancers in a person who is feeling perfectly healthy. Cancer screening does not necessarily prevent cancers from forming, nor is it always perfect at finding cancers at their very start. However, cancer screening does provide the best opportunity to detect cancer at an early stage when proper treatment will most likely prevent a cancer-related death.

So if you’ve been feeling pretty good lately because of all that healthy living you’ve been up to, January 2015 is the perfect time to schedule your lung, breast, colon, or prostate cancer screening test. It’s a New Year’s resolution to last a lifetime.

Cancer Screening Guidelines

Lung Cancer (men and women):

  • Yearly low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) of the chest for adults age 55 to 74 years who have more than a 30-year smoking history andwho currently smoke or stopped smoking less than 15 years ago

Source: American Lung Association 

Breast Cancer (women):

  • Yearly digital mammograms beginning at age 40 for women with average breast cancer risk
  • Breast examination by a health care provider every 3 years for women in their 20’s and 30’s and yearly for women age 40 and older
  • Monthly breast self-examination starting in the 20’s
  • Ultrasound of any new lump that persists
  • Women at increased risk of breast cancer due to family history, genetic mutation, dense breast or previous abnormal biopsies require closer screening, including; Yearly Breast MRI, screening ultrasound, or a similar study combined with annual mammograms to look for cancers that may be missed by annual mammograms and More frequent breast exams depending on the level of risk

Source: Modified from the American Cancer Society. For more information about breast cancer risk assessment and risk-based screening http://drholmesmd.com/resources/risk-assessment/

Colon and Rectal Cancer (men and women):

One of the following cancer screening strategies should be used starting at age 50 (age 45 for African Americans) or earlier if you have chronic inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years to look for polyps or developing cancers throughout the large intestine and rectum. Colonoscopy is the preferred screening strategy.
  • Stool blood tests yearly and flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years to look for blood produced by polyps or developing cancers near the end of the large intestine and rectum, or
  • Computed tomography (CT) colonography every 5 years to look for polyps or developing cancers in the colon, or
  • Yearly Fecal Immunochemical Testing (F.I.T.) for blood produced by polyps or developing cancers.

Source: American College of Gastroenterology

Prostate Cancer (men):

  • Yearly Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to look for proteins produced by developing cancer, performed yearly from age 45 to 75, and
  • Digital (finger) rectal examination to feel for an abnormal prostate gland, performed yearly from age 45 to 75

Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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