A healthy lifestyle is important in helping to prevent cancer. Another important step you can take to protect your health is to be aware of cancer screening guidelines. Talk with your primary care provider, get regular check-ups, and get tested to detect any abnormalities or changed conditions before symptoms develop. Early detection is your best weapon in the fight against cancer.
The following cancer screening guidelines are recommended by the American Cancer Society for those people at average risk for cancer or without any specific symptoms.
People who are at increased risk for certain cancers due to family history or other conditions, may need to follow a different screening schedule. Talk with your primary care provider to determine if you fall into a higher risk category and to determine the appropriate cancer screening schedule for you.
Yearly mammograms to detect cancer and precancerous changes are recommended for women starting at age 40.
In addition, clinical breast exams should be conducted every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and annually for women 40 and over.
Also recommended for women starting in their 20s is breast self-exams done monthly in order to identify color changes, skin irregularities, lumps and changes in the nipples.
A baseline colonoscopy should be done in both men and women to detect cancer and precancerous growths (polyps) on the inside wall of the colon at age 50. After that, it should be done every 10 years.
All women should have a pap smear done to detect abnormal cells that may become cancerous annually beginning in their 20s. After age 30, women may get screened every one to three years. Follow the guidance of your provider.
In addition, pelvic exams to detect cancer and precancerous changes of the cervix, uterus and ovaries should be done annually in women beginning at age 20.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. In 2015, it was estimated that 221,200 new cases of lung cancer (115,610 in men and 105,590 in women) will be diagnosed and 158,040 deaths from lung cancer (86,380 in men and 71,660 among women) will occur. However, there are more options for successful treatment when lung cancer is diagnosed in the early stages before the disease has escaped the lung.
Low Dose CT Screening for lung cancer was developed in response to evidence-based recommendations which found that screening with annual low-dose CT scans reduced the risk of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent compared to patients who were screened with chest X-rays. Lourdes has implemented the guidelines and criteria developed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) in response to this research.
Why Get Screened?
The goal of screening is to detect lung cancer at a time when it is not causing symptoms and when treatment can be most successful. Screening should increase survival and quality of life. An important, recent study referred to as the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) has demonstrated that screening under the appropriate conditions and in the right individuals can reduce death from lung cancer by 20%.
Who Can Benefit from a Lung Screening?
It is clear that only people considered at high risk will benefit. Risk is defined by age (usually between the ages of 55 and 77) and pack years of smoking. Pack years is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. Additional factors such as family or personal history of cancer or lung disease and occupational exposure can play a role and should be discussed with your doctor or a member of our lung team. We will only screen those individuals that are considered high risk.
CT Screening vs Chest X-Ray
When comparing low dose CT scans to standard chest X-rays when screening for lung cancer, researchers found significant advantages for the patient:
- Non-calcified nodules were three times more likely to show up.
- Cancerous tumors were four times more likely to be detected.
- Stage I cancers were six times more likely to be detected.
How Does the Screening Work?
CT Lung Screenings use an X-ray generating device that rotates around your body and a very powerful computer to create crosssectional images of the inside of your lungs. From these images, physicians can see small tumors, which may be more treatable by surgery or other procedures. The scan helps find cancerous nodules early, often before there is spread beyond the lung. It is important to understand that not all findings on the CT Lung Screening are cancerous and may not require treatment. Incidental findings will be managed or observed based on the discretion of the pulmonologist or primary care provider as appropriate.
We’re With You Every Step of the Way
Every person who is screened will meet with our Nurse Navigator who will make sure that all of your questions are answered and will also facilitate any follow up studies that are required. The Nurse Navigator will communicate with your referring physician and our lung team to ensure your comprehensive care. He or she will essentially guide you through the entire process.
To determine if you are a candidate for CT Lung Screening, contact our Nurse Navigator at 607-798-LUNG (5864).
Beginning at age 50, men should have both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) annually to detect prostate cancer in the earliest stages.
In addition, testicular self exam to detect testicular cancer should be done monthly beginning at age 20.
For more information about these and other cancer screening tests, talk with your primary care provider.