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Prevention & Early Detection

Cancer is a relentless disease that does not discriminate between men and women, wealthy or poor, the elderly or the young. In 2009, an estimated 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of this disease. Today, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. If the current trend continues, the National Cancer Institute predicts that one in every two men and one in every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes therefore cancer will become the leading killer of Americans.

On a positive note, because of advanced technology, more treatment options, and the progress that has been made in prevention and early detection, people are surviving longer after being diagnosed with cancer. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 11 million cancer survivors today.

Some of the most important progress has been made in prevention and early detection, particularly screening, including mammography and colonoscopy. Behavior modifications, such as smoking cessation, better eating habits, regular exercise, and sunscreen have been found to prevent many cancers. Continued focus must be placed on prevention, which will always be the best cure.

Following are guidelines provided by the American Cancer Society on Prevention and Early Detection:

For people 20 or older- during a regular health exam or physical, a cancer-related checkup should include health counseling, and depending on a person's age, gender and health risks, might include exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes and ovaries.

Cancer-related health counseling should include discussion about:

  • Tobacco
  • Sun exposure and suncreen
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Sexual practices
  • Pelvic exam
  • Environmental and occupational exposures 

Special tests for certain cancer sites are recommended as outlined below:

Breast Cancer

  • Yearly mammograms starting at the age of 40
  • Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) should be a part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older
  • Starting at the age of 20 you should start doing a Breast Self Exam (BSE) monthly and report any changes to your health care provider.
  • Women at high risk should talk to their health care provider about a breast MRI

Colon and Rectal Cancer

Beginning at the age of 50, both men and women at average risk should have one of the following tests:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) every year
  • Stool DNA test, interval uncertain
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Double contrast barium enema every five years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years

If a person is at higher risk for colon cancer (for example, family history), they should talk to their health care provider about starting colorectal cancer screening earlier

Cervical Cancer

  • PAP TEST- start having this test about three years after intercourse, but no later than age 21. Screening should be done every year with regular pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests.
  • If women are at or over age 30 and have had three normal results in a row, they may get screened every two to three years.
  • Women 70 years or age or older who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal pap test in the last 10 years may choose to stop having cervical cancer screening.
  • Women who have had a total hysterectomy may also choose to stop having this screening unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer.

Prostate Cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) does not support routine testing for prostate cancer at this time. ACS does believe that health care professionals should discuss the potential benefits and limitations of prostate cancer early detection testing with men before any testing begins. This discussion should include an offer for testing with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) yearly, beginning at age 50, to men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and have at least a 10-year life expectancy. Following this discussion, those men who favor testing should be tested. Men should actively take part in this decision by learning about prostate cancer and the pros and cons of early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.

This discussion should take place starting at age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).

This discussion should take place at age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with several first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age).

If, after this discussion, a man asks his health care professional to make the decision for him, he should be tested (unless there is a specific reason not to test).

At Good Samaritan Hospital:

  • Digital mammography
  • Annual free colorectal screening in March
  • Annual skin cancer awareness event
  • Annual breast cancer awareness event

For questions regarding prevention and early detection of cancer, please call Good Samaritan Cancer Center at 308-865-7985.

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