Screenings and cancer prevention: how are they linked?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of people canceled or delayed their preventive care visits or health screenings. Because of this, the number of cancer patients who were identified during this time decreased. Yet while the number of identified cancer patients may have gone down, unfortunately, cancer itself has gone nowhere.
While exercising caution is important as the pandemic continues, continue to make plans to get the cancer screenings recommended by your doctor.
Screenings help doctors detect certain types of cancer before any symptoms are detected. Regular screenings may be able to discover some types of cancer early, when the treatment is typically more effective. Early detection is a key factor in why it is important not to postpone any cancer screenings your doctor has recommended.
Which cancer screenings should I get?
The CDC recommends regular screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risks to find out what they recommend.
- Breast cancer: Yearly mammograms are recommended for women age 40 to 44 through age 54, and every 2 years starting at age 55.
- Cervical cancer: Regular Pap tests and HPV screenings (every 5 years for people between 25 and 65) can find cervical cancer when it is still possible to treat it
- Colon and rectal cancer: Screening can detect precancerous polyps, which can be removed before they become cancerous. Screenings can also identify colorectal cancer early when it is possible to treat it effectively.
Why not screen for ALL cancers?
The cancer screening tests that are right for you depends greatly on your individual risk factors. Additionally, it is important to consider which cancer screenings are considered effective. Effective cancer screenings are those that detect cancer early, reduce the risk of death from that cancer with regular screening, and are potentially more beneficial than harmful. The screenings for breast, cervical, colon, and rectal cancer listed above are all considered effective cancer screenings.
To help you and your doctor get a full picture of your health and your potential risks, it is crucial to maintain regular preventive care practices, such as biometric screenings and routine physicals. Along with factors such as age, lifestyle, and gender, your preventive care screening results can help your doctor determine which cancer screenings are necessary for you.
While it is important to consider the risk of COVID-19 when scheduling appointments during the pandemic, don’t forget about the possible risks of delaying potentially life-saving cancer screenings.