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Cancer Prevention is Crucial. These Screenings Will Help.

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Decade to Decade Guide to Cancer Screenings

By Michele Eggers, quality care coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 6/29/2021 at 7:00 a.m.

The word cancer is frightening and often brings to mind painful memories or frightening images of a disease that seemingly comes out of nowhere with quick progression. While there are few medical ways to prevent cancer the way we can viruses through vaccination, prevention steps and early detection through screenings are a powerful duo in maximizing your chance of avoiding cancer or a successful treatment protocol if diagnosed.

Screening recommendations are based on your personal and family history as well as your current health. Guidelines may also vary slightly depending on which professional organization is referenced. Your personal doctor can help determine whether you are at average or higher risk and help you develop a screening plan that is appropriate for you.

High-risk factors for cancer

When it comes to the different types of cancer, mind the following risk factors that could make screenings even more important for you.

Breast cancer risk factors

The risk of developing breast cancer is increased for those with a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or other types of cancer, as well as those with inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, those who’ve received chest radiation treatment at a young age and those with a history of high-risk biopsy results. Read more about breast cancer’s risk factors by clicking here.

Cervical cancer risk factors

Affecting the pelvic cervix, elevated risk factors for cervical cancer include a history of cervical cancer, HIV-positive status, a weakened immune system and exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth.

Colorectal cancer risk factors

Colorectal cancer risk is increased if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, for those with inflammatory bowel disease and those with certain genetic syndromes.

Lung cancer risk factors

Those who smoke and are exposed to cancer-causing agents like radon, exhaust or asbestos, are considered to be at an elevated risk for lung cancer. Personal or family history of lung cancer also increases your risk.

Why screenings are important

Breast cancer occurs in one out of every eight people with breasts in America. The American Cancer Society estimates about 43,600 people in the United States will die from breast cancer in 2021. Screening helps detect cancer before it has spread, increasing the odds of successful treatment.

Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer deaths for people with cervixes in the United States. That number has decreased significantly, largely in part due to regular screenings that can detect pre-cancerous cells and lead to early treatment. Those who’ve had a hysterectomy may still need screening depending on whether cervical cells remain and whether there is a history of cervical cell changes or cervical cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. In many cases, it may be prevented with regular screenings if detected at an early stage to remove pre-cancerous cells.

Among all people in America, lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer, often not causing symptoms until it has advanced far enough to be less treatable. Screening may detect abnormal growths in lung tissue, allowing treatment at its earliest – and most treatable – stages.

What screenings should I get at what age?

The following information is meant for adults at average risk and may be useful to guide discussions with your personal to determine what screenings are appropriate for you.

What screenings to get in your 20s

  • Breast cancer screening
    • Clinical breast exam may be recommended every one to three years for people with breasts in their 20s
  • Cervical cancer screening (Read more about cervical cancer here)
    • Pap test (cervical cytology) is recommended every three years for people with cervixes aged 21 to 29.

What screenings to get in your 30s

  • Breast cancer screening
    • A clinical breast exam may be recommended every one to three years for those with breasts in their 30s.
  • Cervical cancer screening
    • Screening with one of the following options is recommended for those with cervixes in their 30s. This screening can be done through any of the following methods with subsequent frequency recommended by experts.
      • Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years
      • Pap test alone every three years
      • HPV test alone every five years

What screenings to get in your 40s

  • Breast cancer screening
    • Screening mammography every one to two years may be recommended beginning at age 40.
    • A clinical breast exam may be recommended every year for people with breasts in their 40s.
  • Cervical cancer screening
    • Continued screening with one of the following options is recommended for people with cervixes in their 40s.
      • Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years
      • Pap test alone every three years
      • HPV test alone every five years

What screenings to get in your 50s

  • Breast cancer screening
    • Screening mammography every one to two years is recommended for people with breasts beginning at age 50.
    • A clinical breast exam may be recommended annually for people with breasts in their 50s.
  • Cervical cancer screening
    • Continued screening with one of the following options is recommended for people with cervixes in their 50s.
      • Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years
      • Pap test alone every three years
      • HPV test alone every five years
  • Colon cancer screening
    • Screening is recommended beginning at age 50.
      • gFOBT and annually
      • FIT-DNA every three years
      • Colonoscopy every 10 years
      • CT Colonography every 5 years
  • Lung cancer screening
    • Annual screening may be recommended depending on your smoking status and history.
  • Prostate Cancer Screening
    • Screening beginning at age 50 may be recommended. Discuss the risks and benefits with your personal doctor.

What screenings to get in your 60s

  • Breast cancer screening
    • Screening mammography every one to two years is recommended for people with breasts in their 60s.
    • A clinical breast exam may be recommended every year for people with breasts in their 60s.
  • Cervical cancer screening
    • Continued screening with one of the following options is recommended through age 65.
      • Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years
      • Pap test alone every three years
      • HPV test alone every five years
    • Screenings may stop after age 65 for those without a history of abnormal cervical cells or cancer, and those who have had normal screening results for several years.
  • Prostate cancer screening
    • Screening annually may be recommended. Discuss the risks and benefits with your personal doctor.

What screenings to get in your 70s

  • Colon cancer screening
    • Continued screening is recommended by experts through age 75.
      • gFOBT and annually
      • FIT-DNA every three years
      • Colonoscopy every 10 years
      • CT Colonography every five years
    • Adults over 75 should discuss the need for continued screening with their doctor
  • Lung cancer screening
    • Continued annual screening through age 80 may be recommended depending on your smoking status and history
  • Breast cancer screening
    • Screening mammography every one to two years is recommended through age 75
    • Clinical breast exam may be recommended annually
    • Adults over age 75 should discuss the need for continued screening with their doctor
  • Prostate cancer screening
    • Screening annually may be recommended. Discuss the risks and benefits with your personal doctor.

The age at which screenings should stop depends on your current health and personal preferences. Discuss all risks and benefits as well as expected outcomes of treatment with your personal doctor to make the decisions that are right for you.

Successful navigation of disease begins with frequent recommended screenings

As the above information highlights, there are plenty of items of which to be aware, especially as we age. By asking your personal doctor about which screenings they would like you to undergo, and when, you’ll help make every decade one to celebrate.

For more information on how your Wisconsin-based health plan can help you get the screenings, preventative help and care you need, contact us at Network Health today.

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