From OHC, Specialists in Cancer and Blood Disorders

January 24, 2020

Screenings save lives. They can find diseases early, before you have symptoms, when they’re easier to treat. At OHC, we know that getting the right screening test at the right time is one of the most important things we can do for our health. We recommend you talk with your primary care provider or one of our providers about your history and family’s history of cancer so together you can determine which screenings you should have and how often you should have them. To help you with your discussion, here are the most common annual cancer screenings.

WOMEN

Pap Test

All women should begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21. This is done with a Pap test. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every three years. Beginning at age 30, women should be screened with a Pap test combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years as long as the test results are normal. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test

HPV infection is a viral infection that commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). There are more than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of HPV infection cause warts and some can lead to different types of cancer.

Doctors can test for HPV at the same time as a Pap test. The American Cancer Society recommends this combination for women 30 and older.

“Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer, but some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix),” said OHC’s Dené C. Wrenn, MD, gynecologic oncologist. “Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat, have been linked to HPV infection. The good news is we have vaccines that can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.” (See below for information on the HPV vaccine.)

Mammograms

OHC recommends women begin annual mammograms at age 40 and continue through age 54. Women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

“Mammograms are so important because they have been shown to reduce breast cancer deaths,” said OHC’s Elizabeth H. Levick, MD, radiation oncologist. “They can detect cancer early and before a tumor can be felt, and this increases the chance of survival.”

MEN

Prostate Cancer Screening

“Men should talk with their doctor about whether or not to be screened for prostate cancer. The discussion should include information about benefits, risks and any concerns about screenings so men are making the most-informed decision,” said OHC’s Jeffrey I. Grass, MD, a radiation oncologist and expert with CyberKnife for prostate cancer.

The discussion about screening should take place at:

  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65)
  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years

After this discussion, men who want to be screened should get the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening.

Testicular Cancer Screening

Men should begin examining their testicles every month after puberty and it should be part of their routine check-up with their doctor. Regular exams will allow men to more easily identify any changes. Always report any changes to your doctor right away.

WOMEN AND MEN

Colon Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society recently released an updated guideline recommending that colorectal cancer (CRC) screening begin at age 45 for patients at average risk. This change was partially based on data showing that CRC rates have increased in young and middle-age populations.

“People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests,” said OHC’s Mark E. Johns, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist. “At OHC, we recommend people discuss with their doctor when to start screenings and how often to repeat them.”

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine

HPV infection is a viral infection that can cause warts, and some can cause different types of cancer. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause six types of cancer later in life.

  • HPV vaccination is cancer prevention
  • HPV vaccination is safe
  • HPV vaccination is recommended at age 11 or 12, for both boys and girls, but can be given up to age 45

Talk with your healthcare provider about getting the vaccine for yourself or your children.

Head and Neck Cancer Screening

OHC recommends a screening for head and neck cancer each year as part of an annual check-up for people who:

  • Routinely drink alcohol
  • Use tobacco products or have used tobacco products
  • Have possible exposure to HPV
  • Are age 55 and older

“This is a simple, quick procedure in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. If anything unusual is found, we recommend the patient have a more extensive examination,” said OHC’s Joseph N. Shaughnessy, MD, radiation oncologist. “Also, people should ask their dentist to check for oral cancer during their regular dental checkups.”

Cancer Genetic Testing

Some people are at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer because they have an inherited gene condition. If you have been diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50, have multiple family members with cancer, or have experienced multiple cancers, you may want to consider genetic testing. Genetic testing can determine if you have a disease-related gene condition that may put you at higher risk of getting cancer before symptoms appear. OHC Cancer Genetic Specialists analyze your personal and family history to determine if there is a risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome. You do not have to be a patient of OHC to meet with an OHC Cancer Genetic Specialist.

Skin Cancer

“At OHC, we recommend checking your skin once a month for anything unusual,” said OHC’s Suzanne M. Partridge, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist who specializes in skin cancer.

A skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. A spouse, partner, or close friend or family member may be able to help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp.

“The first time you check your skin, notice the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks so you’ll notice any changes the next time you do a self-exam. If you see anything that concerns you, be sure to tell your doctor. You should also schedule an exam with dermatologist once a year, or more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer,” Dr. Partridge added.

If you would like to speak with one of OHC’s cancer experts about screenings, or to request a second opinion, please call 1-888-649-4800 or click Request An Appointment.

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