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To Your Health: Early detection is key to prevent cancer deaths

Updated: March 7, 2013 6:30AM



Early detection of cancer saves lives.

The American Cancer Society recommends these screening guidelines for most adults:

Breast cancer

Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.

Clinical breast exams about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older.

Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Some women — because of their family history, a genetic tendency or certain other factors — should be screened with an MRI in addition to mammograms. The number of women who fall into this category requiring additional imaging is less than 2 percent. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Colorectal cancer

Beginning at the age of 50, men and women should have a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Yearly fecal occult blood test and a yearly fecal immunochemical test should be performed. If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

Some people should be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer screening should begin at age 21. Women younger than 21 should not be tested.

Women between 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. Now there also is a test called the HPV test. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.

Women between 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it also is OK to have a Pap test alone every three years.

Women older than 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing 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 continues past age 65.

A woman who has had her uterus removed (and also her cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.

A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.

Some women — because of their history — may need to have a different screening schedule for cervical cancer.

Prostate cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment.

The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment.

Starting at 50, men should talk to a doctor about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is the right choice for them.

If they are African-American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, men should have this talk with a doctor starting at age 45.

If men decide to be tested, they should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often they are tested will depend on their PSA level.

Cancer check-ups

For people 20 and older, a cancer-related check-up should include health counseling and, depending on a person’s age and gender, exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes and testes or ovaries.

Take control of your health and reduce your cancer risk by staying away from tobacco and alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, having regular physical activity, protecting your skin and knowing your family history.

More information on how to reduce your cancer risk is at (800) 227-2345 or www.cancer.org.



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