WOMEN: CANCER SCREENING

IN HONOR OF NATIONAL WOMEN’S HEALTH WEEK!

Cancer Screening Save Lives

Yet, this easy way of saving lives is not often used.  Why? Because many remain unaware of what cancer screening they should have and when they should have them. Here are few common cancer guidelines to consider. Remember, the information here should always be verified with your Primary Car Provider (PCP), because recommendations for screening age do change. 

What Is You Family History?

The most important thing to know is your family history for cancer. The best way to find out about this, is by asking your family historian (you know, that great Aunt or Uncle who tells the stories about everything about everyone in the family?) If there is cancer, then it is also good to know what type of cancer your family member had, if possible. This information is very important, because it allows your doctor to consider specific types of cancer risk to discuss with you.  There are also some genetic disorders that may increase your risk for cancer.

Remember, if your mother and/or father had cancer, you should begin screening 10yrs younger, or at the recommended age of screening, whichever is younger. For example:

  • If mother had colon cancer at 49 years of age, then children should begin screening at age 39
  • If Father had prostate cancer at age 71, then sons should begin screening at 40 (if Black/African American), 50 (if non-Black)  

Know your body! 

I’m adopted and do not know my birth family history. What should I do?

There are many who do not know their family history, not only because of adoption, but because speaking about cancer was considered taboo. If you are in this group – no problem. Just follow the guidelines below. Also, though family history is important, less than 15% of cancer diagnosis is related to known family genetics.  Many cancers are “spontaneous” so the guidelines are very helpful. 

Cancer Screening Recommendation At Age 20-40

  • Cervical Cancer: It is recommended that beginning at age 21, all women should begin screening for cervical cancer with a Pap test.  How often should a Pap test be done?  Well, that tends to change, but currently it is recommended every 3 years, after a normal Pap Test. If the Pap test is abnormal, then HPV testing may be recommended.   After age 30, the combination of Pap test and HPV can be done, which if normal, can then be repeated every 3-5 yrs. As you can see, these recommendations changes based on age, so be sure to engage your doctors about the current recommendations.
  • Breast Cancer: Know your breasts! Take a look at them in the mirror. Did you know they are not the same size?  One is larger than the other…that is normal for all women. Take a look at your nipples. Are they the same? Start doing your breast self exams and know your risk for breast cancer based on your family history.  If any abnormality is detected, be sure to discuss with your Primary doctor soonest! Additionally, beginning at age 40, you may discuss getting a baseline mammogram with your Primary doctor as well
  • Colon Cancer: High risk – If indicated per known family history, or diagnosis of any condition that pre-disposes you to colon cancer such as; Familial Adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Lynch Syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer/HNPCC), Turcot Syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, etc.,  Do you have any of these genetic syndrome? Talk to your Primary Care Manager (PCM) as to the best time to start screening

Cancer Screening Recommendation At Age 41-49

  • Cervical Cancer: As noted above. Additionally, after age 30, the combination of Pap test and HPV can be done, which if normal, can then be repeated every 5 yrs. As you can see, these recommendations changes based on age, so be sure to engage your doctors about the current recommendations. 
  • Breast Cancer:  The current recommendation is that all women at age 45 should begin getting annual mammograms.  There are some current controversies that this age should be 50. However, given my bias, I think that women should be given the option. Begin screening at age 40 – at least for baseline.  I have had too many patients younger than age 40 diagnosed with cancer.  Most had no family history of cancer, so these “general statistics” sometimes do not apply.  Again, know your history! There are some patients who began their screening mammogram in their 30’s based on strong family history of breast, or ovarian cancer. We will discuss more about breast cancer in upcoming blogs.  Some patients do have “lumpy breast” that is very common at younger age, but do not make this diagnosis on your own.  Get a baseline mammogram and have some certainty  

  • Colon Cancer:  It is most advertised that Colon Cancer screening should begin at age 50. However, if you speak with and/or review the Gastroenterology Guidelines, screening should begin at age 45 for African Americans/Blacks.  In addition to the above, screening with a colonoscopy is a reasonable thing to do for baseline. Again, some of these guidelines may not be common, but this information is readily available … Talk with your PCM  

Cancer Screening Recommendation At Age 41-49

  • Cervical Cancer: When should this testing stop? 65 years or older, if regular cervical cancer testing had normal results in previous years.  If you had a surgery to remove the womb/uterus (Hysterectomy) for other reasons not relating to cancer, then no testing is needed.  However, if you were ever told that you had a previous pre-cancer condition, then testing is recommended for 20yrs from that time of diagnosis 
  • Breast Cancer: Please see recommendations above.
  • Colon Cancer:  As noted above. It is recommended that at age 50, all women at average risk, should begin screening.  If you are African American/Black, then you should begin at age 45. Consider all your genetic and family risk, as discussed with your PCM
  • Lung Cancer: Do you have a history of smoking? How much did you smoke? Do you have greater than a 30pack year history (a pack-year is 1 pack of cigarette per day for one year)? Did you quit within the last 15yrs, or an active smoker? If you answer yes to any of the above and 55yo +, then you should have a discussion with your Primary Care Physician (PCM) about screening for lung cancer
       

Women, at all ages, may be at risk for other cancers. If you notice anything different about your body, please do not hesitate to contact your PCM. Breast Cancer is also diagnosed in men. If any male in your life notice changes on their chest/Pecs, or you notice something new with a significant other, then the next stop should be with a PCM. You could be saving a life!

You may register for the FREE course HERE and test your cancer knowledge HERE 

Until next time know that,

Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!

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Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

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Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!

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