Cancer prevention and screening
According to the National Cancer Institute, 41 percent of men and women born in the U.S. today will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life.
That's why a healthy lifestyle and cancer screenings are so important - it's easier to prevent cancer than cure it.
Healthy habits help prevent cancer
Many people believe that getting cancer is just bad luck. But cancer depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and how we live our lives.
Things around us, such as UV rays from the sun or the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco can damage our DNA. DNA tells our cells what to do. If damage builds up, our cells may start to multiply abnormally. That's how cancer starts.
You can reduce the risk of getting cancer or a blood disorder by:
Eating healthy foods
Maintaining a healthy weight
Minimizing your exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals
Not smoking or chewing tobacco
Reducing sun exposure, especially if you burn easily
Family history of cancer and inherited genes
Some people inherit damaged DNA from their parents, which can give them a higher risk of certain cancers. For example, the BRCA genes are linked with breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers.
Genetic testing helps you find out if you have a genetic mutation that may lead to cancer. Ask your doctor about which cancers have tests available, what the results mean, and things to consider before you get tested.
Screenings can catch cancer at its earliest stage
A cancer screening looks for cancer before you have any symptoms. Screenings are a good way to catch cancer when it's just beginning to develop—when it's most treatable. The Christ Hospital Health Network uses many tests to find (or rule out) cancer.
Remember, screening tests usually do not diagnose cancer. If a screening test result is abnormal, more tests may be done to check for cancer. For example, a screening mammogram may find a lump in the breast, which may be cancer or something else. To determine if cancer is present, your doctors will order further diagnostic tests.
These are our recommended screenings. Your doctor will tell you the right time to be screened, and the risks and benefits of any test.
By age 21, all women should get screened for cervical cancer. You should meet the following guidelines, whether or not you've had an HPV vaccine:
Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. If atypical cells are found, an additional HPV test may be needed
Women between the ages of 30 and 64 should have a Pap test and an HPV test every three years. Depending on your results, your doctor may recommend you undergo just the Pap test every three years while others may need to be monitored more frequently.
Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results do not need to be tested for cervical cancer. 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 goes past age 65.
A woman who has had a total hysterectomy (her uterus and cervix removed) for reasons not related to cervical cancer, and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer, do not need to be tested.
The gynecologists at The Christ Hospital can perform these screenings.
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the U.S. Regular screenings should start at the following times:
If you have a family history, defined as having a first degree relative with a polyp or a cancer, you should start screening exams 10 years earlier than the age at which that relative was diagnosed.
African American men and women with no family history should start at age 45
All others with no family history should begin at age 50
While a colonoscopy remains the gold standard, the American Cancer Society offers these screening guidelines for colon cancer tests:
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
Colonoscopy every 10 years
Double-contrast barium enema every five years
CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
These additional tests are now available and may be offered by your doctor:
Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years
These guidelines may not apply to you if you have a family history or who have tested positive for a gene that puts you at greater risk for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will tell you which tests apply to you and how often you should have them.
Your doctor may ask you to start having screening tests if you meet the following criteria:
Age 55-77 years of age and in good health
Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
Are a current smoker or have quit with in the last 15 years
Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (For example, if you smoked a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
Your doctor may refer you for this procedure if you meet the requirements.
If you are a current or former cigarette smoker, age 55-77, complete our lung appointment request form to see if you may benefit from a lung screening. One of our clinical experts will respond with appropriate next steps within 48 hours.
We recommend that men talk with their doctors to make an informed decision about whether to be screened for prostate cancer based on their risk. Risk is determined by many factors, including your health, lifestyle and family history.
Generally, screenings should begin at:
Age 50 for men at average risk of prostate cancer and expected to live at least 10 more years.
Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)
Men who want to be screened should be tested with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening.
Your primary care provider will refer you to a urologist for screening.
We recommend that at the time of menopause, all women learn about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer . Based on risks and/or symptoms, your gynecologist may consider a yearly endometrial biopsy for you.
We encourage you to be personally aware and perform head-to-toe self skin screenings for moles or freckles and spots on your skin that may be discolored or are new, different or don't heal – even in less obvious areas, such as the scalp and bottom of feet. Melanoma and skin cancer screenings can be performed by your primary care doctor or your dermatologist (skin doctor). Screenings should be performed once a year.
Ask your doctor about other cancer-related screenings. Depending on your age and gender, The American Cancer Society recommends these additional check-ups:
The Christ Hospital Health Network has a team of specialists who conduct these cancer-related check-ups.
Do you have questions about screenings? Contact our ezCare Concierge nurse navigator, a free, confidential service designed to help you navigate the best next steps for you and your health.