Cancer. We all know someone who has been diagnosed or affected by cancer. But what is it really? According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. Regardless of the type of cancer, the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissue. Normally, the body creates new cells as the old, damaged cells die off. As cancer develops, these cells begin to behave erratically. Old, damaged cells continue to survive while new, unnecessary cells form, which eventually leads to the growth of a tumor. Screening is checking your body for cancer before you have any symptoms. Cancer screening is recommended by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, as well as the Center for Disease Control, in accordance with guidelines set by cancer type and age. Regular screenings may help diagnosis breast, cervical, and colon cancers early on when treatments would be most likely to work.
The first part of breast cancer prevention is awareness of your body. Every woman should know how her breasts typically look and feel. Regular self-checks can be beneficial in understanding your body. Any noted changes in the breasts should be shared with your doctor. All women should also know the benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) encourages women aged 40-44 to start thinking about their choice to receive regular mammograms. Mammography is a specific tool used to view the breast, and it produces images that can show irregularities and tumors. From ages 45 to 54, the ACS recommends yearly mammograms. At the age of 55, women can begin to have mammograms once every two years. Screening should continue as long as the woman is in good health, and is expected to live for ten or more years.
Cervical cancer screenings come in two forms: Pap and Human papillomavirus, or HPV, testing. Both types of screenings use cells from the outside of a woman’s cervix. The cells are scraped and then tested for specific strains of HPV; some strains have a higher likelihood of developing into cervical cancer. Using the cells from outside the cervix, the pap test is checked by a pathologist for precancerous or cancerous cells. Pat tests should take place once a year after a woman turns 21 until age 29. Starting at age 30 until 65, a woman should get both a PAP and a HPV test once every five years. After age 65, all testing can cease unless there is a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer. In which case, testing should continue until 20 years after diagnosis.
Beginning at age 50, men and women alike should start screening for colon cancer. There are many different kinds of screening for this type of cancer with the most common being a colonoscopy. Using a flexible, lighted tube, the doctor checks the entire colon for cancer. Talk with your doctor about your family history to determine the right plan for you.