NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, October 3, 2023 /EINPresswire.com/ — For many people cancer is a difficult topic to confront head-on. There is fear that the symptoms and diagnosis of cancer may not come until the disease is very advanced and more difficult to treat. However, thinking about routine cancer screenings is one of the best ways to get out ahead of a cancer diagnosis, or at least to maintain some peace of mind with healthy results. Not all cancer screenings are needed—or even recommended—for everyone though. Dr. Paunel Vukasinov, Medical Director at Medical Offices of Manhattan and contributor to www.LabFinder.com, shares the most important takeaways.“A routine cancer screening is a test to find out if someone has cancer before there are any signs or symptoms. Screening recommendations are from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent group of volunteer disease prevention experts. (https://rb.gy/0jpro) Using an evidence-based approach, they provide guidance on who, when, and how often different groups of people would benefit from cancer screenings,” explained Dr. Vukasinov.
The USPSTF recommends that women begin talking to their primary healthcare provider about breast cancer screenings beginning at age 40. Usually a mammogram (breast x-ray) is recommended every two years beginning at age 50, but this can be sooner for women with an increased risk of breast cancer, such as those with:
• family and personal history of breast diseases or breast or ovarian cancer
• having started menstruation before age 12
• specific known genetic mutations
• radiation exposure
• certain drug exposures and hormone therapies
In addition to mammograms, MRI scans of the breast are also sometimes used, but medical imaging is not the only form of breast cancer screening.
“Breast self-exams are one of the simplest forms of cancer screening. It’s important to be aware of what ‘normal’ means and feels like, and to consult with a doctor when something doesn’t seem right,” said Dr. Vukasinov.
Not only is it possible to discover cervical cancer early using routine cancer screenings, but it can be found before it starts while it’s still in the “precancerous” stage. During these screenings—such as a Pap test, also called a Pap smear—the cervix is scraped to collect cell samples which are sent to a lab. Abnormal cells could indicate cancer or precancer. The cells can also be tested for HPV, which can cause changes in cervical cells.
“These routine tests are often performed by an OB/GYN, but many doctor offices and clinic can also perform them. They usually begin at age 21 and continue until around age 65 for most women,” Dr. Vukasinov said.
Colorectal cancer affects the colon and rectum, and usually begins with slow-growing polyps. Using routine cancer screenings, these polyps can be discovered and then removed. There are many available screenings for colorectal cancer, but one of the most familiar is the colonoscopy.
“A colonoscopy is generally an outpatient procedure wherein a doctor will examine the colon with a flexible instrument containing a camera. For most people, this screening begins at age 45 with a follow-up needed every 5 years,” said Dr. Vukasinov.
Screenings for colorectal cancer may be needed earlier or more frequently for people with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, such as those with:
• personal or family history of colorectal cancer
• history of polyps
• inflammatory bowel diseases
• certain known genetic conditions
Lung cancer screenings are recommended for people who meet all three of the following criteria:
• current smokers, or those who have quit within the last 15 years
• age 50-80
• smoking history of 20 pack-years or more
“Pack-years are a measurement of someone’s cigarette consumption. A single pack-year means that, on average, a person smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. So, 20 pack-years could be a pack per day for 20 years; it could be 2 packs per day for 10 years; it could be half-a-pack per day for 40 years. This will vary for each individual, and even over that individual’s own lifetime,” Dr. Vukasinov said.
A special type of x-ray scan—called a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan—is used to check the lungs for signs of lung cancer. As of today, this is the only recommended routine screening for lung cancer.
The most common type of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer. It’s frequently easier to treat than other types of cancer, but it can still be serious if not treated quickly. Catching skin cancer early is one way to improve the long-term prognosis.
“A dermatologist can help determine the best cadence for skin cancer screenings. This is still an active area of research, but skin cancer screenings may be especially important for people with a family history of skin cancer or with current signs of skin cancer such as irregular or changing skin features,” said Dr. Vukasinov.
There are many other types of cancer, but routine cancer screenings are not recommended for most people. This is because the evidence has not shown that existing cancer screenings either improve patient outcomes or cause less harm than doing nothing. Certain tests could be harmful, for example, if they lead to direct complication from the procedure or lead to indirect harm through false-positives or false-negatives.
Even so, some groups of people might benefit from other screenings, particularly if there is any personal or family history of a certain type of cancer.
“For anyone who’s unsure, talk a primary care doctor. Share your concerns and what goals for cancer screenings. Medicine continues to advance every day, and doctors can help patients navigate it to get the care they need,” said Dr. Vukasinov.
Medical Offices of Manhattan offers comprehensive health care at four locations in New York
Dr. Paunel Vukasinov, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and Medical Director at Medical Offices of Manhattan.