2008-11-06 / Local & State

October May Be Over, But Cancer Screenings Go On

Pennsylvania Medical Society, American Cancer Society team up to encourage early detection

October, a month often celebrated to raise awareness of breast cancer, has come and gone, but representatives of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Division of the American Cancer Society say Pennsylvanians shouldn't hesitate throughout the year to be screened for this and many other types of cancer.

"With the major cancers, the screening tools are so easy that the benefits far outweigh the risks," says Kathy Selvaggi, M.D., president of the American Cancer Society's Pennsylvania Division. "The bottom line is, there's just no question that early detection saves lives."

Daniel Glunk, M.D., recently installed president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, agreed with Dr. Selvaggi. "Early detection in combination with good medicine makes a huge difference," he said. "Age-appropriate screenings should be on everyone's calendar."

Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society's Pennsylvania Division, teamed up with the Pennsylvania Medical Society's Institute for Good Medicine to raise awareness of age-appropriate screenings. According to Peter Lund, M.D., founder of the Institute for Good Medicine, many people avoid screenings for the wrong reasons.

"We know from public polling that many Pennsylvanians avoid screenings due to fears, time restraints and several other factors," he said. "The reality is that when cancer is detected early, it's more treatable and survival rates increase dramatically. Reaching out to Pennsylvanians and encouraging them to be screened is important."

According to Lund, a January 2008 Patient Poll conducted by the Medical Society's Institute for Good Medicine found that:

• 44 percent of the respondents indicated that they had delayed or avoided a cancer-related test screening because they were worried about what the results might be.

• 31 percent said they felt the test wasn't really necessary.

• About 20 percent also selected concerns about time, pain or embarrassment from the test as reasons to avoid or delay.

(Note that totals exceed 100 percent because more than one answer could be selected. 13 percent of the total and 35 percent of those who avoided/delayed noted lack of insurance as a reason as well.)

To help patients understand ageappropriate screenings, both the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Division of the American Cancer Society recommend the following:

Men ages 45-49:

To Check for Prostate Cancer

Beginning at age 45:

• If you are African-American or if your father, brother or son had prostate cancer before the age of 65, get a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and a rectal exam every year. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate age for you to begin screening.

• Other men do not have to be tested at this age. Men age 50 and older:

To Check for Prostate Cancer

Your doctor should offer you a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and a rectal exam every year. Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer and the pros and cons of early detection and treatment to decide if this test is right for you.

To Check for Colon Cancer

• Get regular colon cancer testing. There are several tests to check for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about these tests, how often they are done and which test is best for you.

Men of all ages:

To Check for Skin Cancer

• As part of a routine cancer-related checkup, your doctor should check your skin carefully. Let him or her know if you have a family history of skin cancer or notice any changes in your skin or moles.

• It's important to check your own skin, preferably once a month. Women under 40:

To Check for Breast Cancer

Have a doctor examine your breasts about every three years when you are in your 20s and 30s.

Examining your own breasts beginning in your 20s is an option. Tell your doctor right away if you feel any changes in your breasts such as a lump.

To Check for Cervical Cancer

Begin cervical cancer screening (Pap test) about three years after you begin having intercourse, but no later than age 21.

If you are 30 years of age or older, and have had three normal Pap test results in a row, you may be screened every two to three years. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

Women ages 40 to 49:

To Check for Breast Cancer

Have an x-ray (mammogram) of your breasts every year.

Have a doctor examine your breasts every year.

Tell your doctor right away if you feel or notice any changes in your breasts, such as a lump.

To Check for Cervical Cancer

Get a regular Pap test. Ask your doctor how often you should have a Pap test. Most women have the test every one to three years.

Women age 50 and older:

To Check for Breast Cancer

Have an x-ray (mammogram) of your breasts every year.

Have a doctor examine your breasts every year.

Tell your doctor right away if you feel or notice any changes in your breasts, such as a lump.

To Check for Cervical Cancer

Get a regular Pap Test. Ask your doctor how often you should have a Pap test. Most women have the test every one to three years.

To Check for Colon Cancer

Get regular colon cancer testing. There are several tests to check for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about these tests, how often they are done and which test is best for you.

For Women of all ages:

To Check for Skin Cancer

As part of a routine cancer-related checkup, your doctor should check your skin carefully. Let him or her know if you have a family history of skin cancer or notice any changes in your skin or moles.

It's important to check your own skin, preferably once a month.

For more information about cancer screenings, visit www.myfamilywellness.org and www.cancer.org.

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