Proactive, regularly scheduled screenings are your best defense against cancer. By checking for cancer before you have symptoms, you can catch it early — when it’s most treatable and gives you the best chance for a successful outcome. Dr. Feras Abdul-Khalek, medical oncologist for the Luminis Health Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, suggests talking with your doctor about the types of cancer screening that are right for you and when you should have them.
Know your risk factors
The timing and type of cancer screenings you need depends on your risk factors. And each type of cancer has its own set of risk factors; some you can control and some you cannot. If you’re concerned about a specific type of cancer, ask your doctor which risk factors may make you more likely to get cancer.
Common risk factors include:
- Alcohol use
- Certain gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 for breast cancer
- Dense breast tissue
- Family history
- First pregnancy after age 30
- Physical activity
- Sun exposure
- Tobacco use
- Ultraviolet radiation exposure (such as tanning beds)
Understand screening types
When it comes to cancer screening, remember you’re your first line of defense. Know your body and tell your doctor about any changes or symptoms as soon as you find them. Healthcare professionals are specially trained to listen to — and follow up on — your concerns. They will also likely recommend some routine cancer screenings based on your unique needs:
- Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. Several types of screening can help detect colorectal cancer, including a colonoscopy. Men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer should have screening between 45 and 75.
- CT Scan for lung cancer. A low-dose CT scan, which combines x-ray imaging with computer processing, can reduce lung cancer deaths in heavy smokers. Adults age 50-80 who either currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years may be eligible for annual screening.
- Exams for skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and typically affects exposed skin like your face, hands and arms. Schedule a skin cancer screening or talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin, like a new mole or changes to a mole you already have.
- HPV and Pap tests for cervical cancer. The human papillomavirus test (HPV) and Pap test, alone or in combination, are the standard screening tests for cervical cancer. Women age 21 should begin screening for cervical cancer (Pap test alone); age 30-65 Pap test every 3 years or Pap test and/or HPV test every 5 years. Remember – the HPV vaccine can prevent most cervical cancers.
- Mammograms for breast cancer. Mammography uses a low-level x-ray to take images of the breast tissue and check for any masses. Women age 40 and older should get a mammogram every year.
- PSA test for prostate cancer. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures a protein produced by prostate cells. Men aged 55 and older are at a higher risk for prostate cancer and should regularly have screenings.
Trust Luminis Health with your health
Cancer specialists at Luminis Health offer advanced cancer screening and diagnostic tests. Talk to your doctor to help determine if you need a specific type of cancer screening.