Scan and Deliver

Early cancer detection produces best prognosis.

As Florida continues to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians and surgeons are again allowed to perform elective procedures, including certain cancer screenings such as colonoscopies.

“People at high-risk for colon cancer based on age and family history really should get screening colonoscopies because they are critical to early detection,” says Renee Gates, oncology liaison at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard. “And the most important factor in cancer prevention is early detection. Further, the chances for a positive prognosis are greatly improved when the cancer is caught at an early stage.

“Colon cancer testing is recommended for people with a higher-than-average risk beginning at age 21. Otherwise, screening colonoscopies are recommended every five years for men and women beginning at age 50.”

There are screening guidelines for many other cancers as well, including cervical, breast, prostate, testicular, skin and oral cancers.

“Many women do not take cervical cancer seriously enough,” Renee warns. “Pap tests are recommended every three years, not every 10 years as some women currently do. Women should also be tested for human papillomavirus, or HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is linked to cervical cancer and other cancers as well.”

Breast cancer affects women and men but is much more common in women. Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 40. It is also recommended that women perform monthly breast self-examinations to look for lumps and irregularities.

“Most insurance does not pay for mammograms for women under 40,” Renee reports. “That can be problematic because the most aggressive breast cancers tend to occur in women of childbearing age.

“It is up to women and their physicians to fight the insurance companies when a woman has signs and symptoms of breast cancer and needs a mammogram before age 40. People must be their own advocates when it comes to their health care.”

Let’s Not Forget

Certain cancers, such as prostate and testicular, affect men. Digital rectal exams, or DREs, are a simple test to feel for changes in the prostate that may signal cancer. Physicians should perform DREs during routine physical exams.

Another test for prostate cancer, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, is not recommended for routine screening. It is recommended that men discuss the risks and benefits of PSA testing with their physicians, then decide if they wish to proceed.

“To catch testicular cancer early, it is recommended that men perform monthly self-exams to look for lumps and changes in the size of their testicles,” Renee states. “It is also recommended that testicular exams be performed by physicians during routine checkups.”

The best way to stop lung cancer is for smokers to quit, Renee advises. However, a screening option suggested for smokers is a yearly low-dose CT scan to look for signs of cancer in the lungs.

Screening recommendations for skin cancer state that adults ages 35 to 75 with one or more risk factors should visit a physician annually for a full-body skin examination. Risk factors for skin cancer include having a personal or family history of skin cancer, blonde hair, blue or green eyes, and skin that burns easily, freckles or reddens in the sun.

“Oral cancer screening is another instance when people can take responsibility for their health,” Renee asserts. “While brushing and flossing, people can perform self-exams and look for unusual spots and sores in their mouths.

“As part of routine dental visits, dentists should carefully examine their patients’ tongues and gums, especially if the patients are smokers or heavy drinkers. During the exam, dentists search for white patches, sores and lumps, which could be signs of oral cancer.”

Renee concludes by reminding everyone of the importance of wearing a mask and handwashing frequently during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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