Written by Shadi Salehyar
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States right behind heart disease. This is why it’s important to be educated on the various types of cancers and how they could potentially affect your life. Early detection of cancer is essential for treatment and will lessen the risk of death. Cancer screenings can be scary due to the grim topic and widely believed myths. Many people skip out on screenings such as mammograms due to preconceived notions about them being painful or exposing patients to radiation. While some level of discomfort during a mammogram or other cancer screenings is normal, all procedures are within medical guidelines. It’s important to keep up with screenings and make sure you remain healthy throughout your life. In order to help spread education about preventative measures, Families Together has put together a list of the five most common types of cancer and when you should be screened for them.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, with 300,590 new cases expected in the United States in 2023 according to the National Cancer Institute. Early detection for breast cancer will result in less harsh treatments and a higher chance of survival, which is why mammograms are crucial to your health. Some of the early signs of breast cancer include pain in the breasts, new lump in the breast or underarm, redness and irritation on or around the skin of the breast, change in size or shape of the breast and nipple discharge. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to a doctor about a screening immediately. Starting at age 40, the CDC recommends talking to your doctor about when to start mammogram screenings as some people may need to start earlier than others. Those between the ages of 50-74 should get mammograms every two years for the best protection against the disease.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that transports sperm. Early warning signs of prostate cancer include trouble urinating or pain during urination, but sometimes there are no symptoms at all and the cancer can grow very slowly. Screening for prostate cancer includes receiving a prostate specific antigen blood test and a digital rectal exam. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s important to talk to your doctor about screenings at age 50. Those who are high risk, including African Americans and those who have a first degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65 should get screened at 45. Those who are extremely high risk, and have had more than one diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65, should get screened as early as 40.
The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). An x-ray machine uses a low dose of radiation to create detailed images of your lungs in order to check for signs of cancer. The U.S. The Preventive Services Task Force recommends a yearly LDCT for those who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years and those between the ages of 50 and 80. Screening is also recommended for people with a smoking history of 20 pack-years or more. See below for pack-year definition.
Note: A pack-year is a way to measure how much a person has smoked over a period of time. It is calculated by multiplying the packs of cigarettes one smokes in a day by the number of years they’ve been smoking.
Colon cancer is caused by abnormal growths in the colon called precancerous polyps. Screening tests are used to find and remove them before they can turn into cancer. The CDC recommends a screening once every 10 years for people between the ages of 45 and 75. Anyone aged 76 and older should talk to their doctors about screenings.
Skin cancer will often occur from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds. You should talk to your doctor about getting screened for skin cancer if you notice any abnormalities in your skin, such as large brown spots or lesions that are painful or itchy. The American Cancer Society recommends becoming familiar with all the freckles and blemishes on your skin so that you may easily detect a change and report to a doctor as soon as you see something. Also remember to wear sunscreen, avoid artificial UV lighting and limit your time in the sun as preventative measures.
FTOC encourages everyone to stay vigilant about their health and take cancer risks very seriously. If you’re in need of a mammogram, or a regular check up to assess your own risk levels, you can schedule an appointment by calling us at 1(800) 597-7977 or by filling out our appointment request form. It’s important to act and stay on top of your screenings to prevent serious illnesses.