Screenings are instrumental in properly diagnosing and/or preventing a variety of medical conditions, including cancer. As a physician, I encourage people to take an active role in their healthcare by scheduling screenings and doctor appointments, as necessary. Cancer is a disease that is crucial to catch early. Regular cancer screenings can help detect problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better.
You may have chosen to postpone your cancer screenings during the coronavirus pandemic. Delays in screenings can cause healthcare providers to miss the window for early detection and ultimately lead to a diagnosis that’s more advanced, with limited treatment options and poorer outcomes.
Healthcare providers are adopting best practices for safe patient visits, so you can have the peace of mind that your healthcare team is available and committed to caring for you safely. If you are due to schedule your regular cancer screenings, like a mammogram, pap smear, colonoscopy or lung cancer screening – and especially if you have any concerning symptoms – don’t delay getting the care you need. Cancer doesn’t wait and neither should you.
Here are some common screenings that can detect certain cancers:
BREAST CANCER SCREENING
Breast cancer screenings begin at age 40 and should occur annually. The American College of Radiology states that mammography screenings have assisted in the reduction of deaths due to breast cancer in the United States by 1/3 since 1990. The goal of screening mammography is to detect breast cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable. In fact, cancers that are confined to the breast have survival rates greater than 98%.
CERVICAL CANCER (PAP SMEAR)
This test checks the cells from inside a woman’s cervix for any changes that could lead to cancer. The cervix is the lower part of a woman’s uterus that opens into the vagina. You may need this screening to look for cervical cancer or changes in cervical cells that might eventually lead to cancer. Major medical groups generally advise that women get regular Pap tests every three years starting at age 21. Getting a regular Pap test can be life-saving. Cervical cancer is a serious type of cancer in women. It is also one of the most treatable types when found early.
A colonoscopy is a test used to detect any abnormalities and remove polyps that can potentially cause colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the country, however it has a high cure rate—over 95%—if detected early.
LUNG CANCER SCREENING
Lung cancer screenings are of the utmost importance for those who are 55 to 80 years old and have smoked a pack a day for over 30 years, are current smokers or who have quit smoking in the last 15 years. It is also a good idea to get screened if you’ve been exposed long-term to second-hand smoke or environmental pollution.
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
Your overall health is as important as ever. Take action now and schedule an appointment with your doctor to see which screenings are most appropriate for you.
Roberto Madrid MD, is vice president of Medical Group Operations for PIH Health Physicians.
PIH Health’s doctors’ offices, imaging centers and outpatient centers are open and safe to get care. Visit PIHHealth.org/Screenings to learn about cancer screening services at PIH Health. To find a PIH Health Physician near you, visit