Cancer Screenings

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month. According to cancer.net, approximately 46% of women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at an early stage. Let’s take a look at cervical cancer and a few other common cancers for more details.

There are over 100 types of cancer. Anywhere there are cells found in your body is a potential space for cancer to develop. Cancer begins when genetic changes impair the orderly process of cell growth. Most times in the early stages of cancer you have no symptoms – making cancer screenings imperative for early detection. Getting screenings regularly could find abnormal cells when treatment is likely to work best.

What screenings you need and when depends on your age, gender and family history. Here are the recommendations by the American Cancer Society for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and colon and rectal cancer. For a full list of cancer screenings, visit www.cancer.org.

Cervical cancer

  • Cervical cancer testing should start at age 21. Women under age 21 should not be tested.
  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test done every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it’s needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) done every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it’s OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. Women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing goes past age 65.
  • A woman who has had her uterus and cervix removed (a total hysterectomy) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.

Breast cancer

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.

Colon and rectal cancer and polyps

  • Starting at age 50, both men and women should get a:
    Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*, or
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*

*If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done. Source: cancer.org

While eating right, exercising, and other habits affect your overall health, cancer screenings are equally important. Screenings give you the best chance of finding cancer as early as possible.

Talk with your primary care doctor to see what screenings make the most sense for you. Your HR department can help clarify which screenings are covered under your plan, or you can call your Diversified Team at 262.439.4800 for more information.

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