National Women’s Health Week, which is May 10-16 and Mother’s Day, are perfect opportunities to remind female friends and family about the importance of talking to their doctor about cancer screenings, such as mammograms.
Mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment may be more effective. Mammography x-rays are quick, easy, and safe. In fact, mammograms use less radiation than a dentist’s x-ray. Recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women starting in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early. Often a woman and her doctor may not feel a lump until it is the size of a pea. But a mammogram can find cancers when they are very small, often several years before a lump or change can be felt. As women grow older, their chances of having breast cancer will increase. Almost half of all breast cancer occurs in women 65 and older; more than three-quarters of them occur in women 50 and older.
According to the American Cancer Society in 2008, an estimated 182,460 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to occur among women in the U.S.; and approximately 40,480 women died of the disease. Among Hispanic women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer; an estimated 14,300 Hispanic women were expected to be diagnosed in 2006. In 2007 an estimated 19,010 African American women were to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,830 were expected to succumb of the disease.
Another disease women should be aware of and visit with their doctor about is cervical cancer. According to the Society most cervical precancers develop slowly, so nearly all cases can be prevented if a woman is screened regularly. An estimated 11,070 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2008. Incidence rates have decreased steadily over the past several decades in both white and African American women. In 2006 an estimated 2,000 Hispanic women in the United States were to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 350 die from it. As Pap screening has become more common, pre-invasive lesions of the cervix are detected far more frequently than invasive cancer. As a result, mortality rates have declined steadily due to prevention and early detection.
Numerous studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. The following Society guidelines are for the early detection of cancer for people without symptoms. Some people are at higher risk for certain cancers and may need to have tests more frequently. Talk with your health care professional to find out how these guidelines relate to you.
This exam should include health counseling and depending on a person’s age, might include examinations for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, and ovaries, as well as for some nonmalignant diseases.
Women age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram and clinical breast exam (CBE) performed by a health care professional during a periodic health exam. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE about every three years. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
Women at increased risk (family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests, or having more frequent exams.
Women should report any breast changes promptly to their health care providers.
Screening MRI is recommended for women with an approximately 20-25 percent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, including women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and women who were treated for Hodgkin disease.
Cervix — Annual testing with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests should start approximately three years after a woman begins having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. At or after age 30, women with three or more consecutive normal test results, may get screened every two to three years. Cervical cancer screening with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years.
Alternatively, cervical cancer testing with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years. Doctors may suggest regular screenings if a woman has certain risk factors, such as HIV infection or a weak immune system. Women age 70 and older who have had three or more consecutive normal Pap tests in the last 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer testing.Testing after total hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer.
Endometrium — Beginning at age 35, women with or at high risk for hereditary non- polyposis colon cancer should be offered endometrial biopsy annually to screen for endometrial cancer. At the time of menopause all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their physicians.
Colon & Rectum
Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow one of the examination schedules below:
Tests That Detect Adenomatous Polyps and Cancer
· Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
· Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
· Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every 5 years, or
· CT colonography (CTC) every 5 years
Tests That Primarily Detect Cancer
· Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
· Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
· Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer, interval uncertain.
People at moderate or high risk for colon cancer should talk with their doctor about a different testing schedule.
For more information on cancer prevention and detection, contact your American Cancer
Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit their Web site at www.cancer.org.