Routine screenings can make a difference
Cancer affects the lives of far too many Americans. Medical experts estimate roughly 39 percent of adults will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives.
But there are reasons to be hopeful. A 2021 report from the American Cancer Society found cancer death rates fell by 31 percent between 1991 and 2018. This is because of three key factors: reduced smoking, improved treatment and early detection.
That’s why regular cancer screenings are so important. For some types of cancer, including breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, screenings can find warning signs early, when treatment is likely to work best.
Breast cancer screening
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer for most women of screening age. Mammograms can help doctors find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a mammogram every two years for women ages 50 to 74 at average risk. Women ages 40 to 49 should speak to their health care providers about whether and how often they should get a mammogram. Talk to your doctor to figure out what’s right for you.
Cervical cancer screening
A woman’s doctor can detect signs of cervical cancer through a Pap test or a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. A Pap test looks for cell changes on the cervix that could become cervical cancer. An HPV test looks for the virus that can cause those changes. The USPSTF recommends regular cervical cancer screenings and HPV testing for adult women. Talk to your doctor about which tests make sense for you.
Colorectal cancer screening
Colorectal cancer usually develops from polyps in the colon or rectum. Doctors can discover these through screenings and catch them before they become cancerous. The USPSTF recommends regular colorectal screenings for adults ages 45 to 75. Adults ages 76 to 85 should talk to their doctors. Anyone of any age with a family history of colorectal cancer should ask his or her doctor about when to start screening.
Your family medical history and personal health history will play a role in determining what’s best for you. Talk to your doctor about which screenings you should get.
Along with getting regular screenings, healthy lifestyle choices can lower your risk of getting cancer. The CDC says you should:
- Refrain from using tobacco.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
- Get tested for hepatitis C, which can lead to liver cancer.
The American Cancer Society, the CDC and the USPSTF are independent organizations that offer health information you may find helpful.