Education: Cancer Screening

There is a lot you can do to put your health first-by keeping up to date with the recommended cancer screenings according to your age, race and gender. Studies show that cancer survivorship increases greatly with early detection. By participating in these protocols, and abiding by your physician’s recommendations you can gain some peace of mind and feel more in control of your health.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

  • Mammograms-women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. The breast surgeons of Austin Breast Center highly recommend 3-D mammography for higher quality imaging. Ask your doctor about the best options for you.
  • Self Checks should start at an early age, view the Five Step Method provided by BreastCancer.Org

Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines and Prevention with the HPV Vaccine

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. The guidelines for The Pap test include women who between the ages of 21-65, regardless of sexual activity or inactivity.
  • The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus which can can cause cells to change into a cancerous state. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your doctor at the same time. When both tests are performed together, it is called co-testing. If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then tell you that you can wait as long as five years for your next screening. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup.
  • Prevention- HPV Vaccine– HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21, and in some cases up until age 26. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infection can cause:
    • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
    • cancers of the penis in men; and
    • cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.

Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines

  • The recommended age for both men and women who have normal risk for developing colon cancer should start colonoscopies at age 45 and repeat at regular intervals, suggested to be every 7-10 years until or after age 75.
  • For those at higher risk, screenings are recommended before age 45 such as this who have:
    • a family history of colon cancer or certain types of polyps
    • personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
    • family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC
    • prior radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat cancer

Lung Cancer

  • Yearly low-dose CT scans are recommended for those who have a history of heavy smoking, or have within the last 15 years, and are between 55-80 years old. (Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years). Screenings can stop if patients have not smoked in 15 years or after their 81st birthday. Note that it is still unhealthy to smoke, even if you are getting yearly screenings.

Oral Cancer

  • It is recommended that we visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. During each visit, your dentist or hygienist should perform an oral exam to check for suspicious lesions.

Prostate Cancer

  • Men who are 55 to 69 years old should make individual decisions, with guidance from their physicians about being screened for prostate cancer with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
  • Men who are 70 years old and older should not be screened for prostate cancer routinely.
  • For those who have a family history of prostate cancer- additional recommendations may be made.
  • African American men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, and should also consider screenings. Compared with white men, African-American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer in their early 50s and twice as likely to die of the disease. (American Cancer Society)

Skin Cancer

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine screening (total body examination by a doctor) to find skin cancers early. This recommendation is for people who do not have a history of skin cancer and who do not have any suspicious moles or other spots. Report any unusual moles or changes in your skin to your doctor. Also talk to your doctor if you are at increased risk of skin cancer.
  • A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma (a tumor in melanin forming cells)—
    • “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
    • “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
    • “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
    • “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
    • “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

    Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

Genetic Testing

Why Undergo Genetic Counseling?

  • Early Detection and Prevention: Most hereditary cancer is associated with an increased risk for multiple cancer types. Knowledge of this increased risk allows for steps to be taken to detect cancer as early as possible or prevent it altogether. If you currently have cancer, knowledge of your hereditary risk may help to clarify treatment options.
  • Family Members/Relatives: It may be possible to identify which other family members are at increased risk. Relatives can take steps to manage their risk. Other family members might not be at increased risk in spite of having a significant family history of cancer.

Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling?

Your health care providers should be able to help you determine whether you are a good candidate for genetic counseling. The following guidelines can be used to help determine whether genetic counseling may be appropriate for you:

  • Cancer diagnosed at younger-than-typical ages.
  • Multiple relatives who have the same type of cancer.
  • An individual with multiple different types of cancer.
  • An individual with a rare cancer or tumor, such as male breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or paraganglioma.
  • Individuals of certain ancestries, such as Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, who also have breast cancer.
  • An individual with 20 or more colon polyps.
  • Individuals who are concerned about their or their family members’ risk of developing cancer.

Visit our Genetic Counseling page to learn more and to schedule an appointment with our genetic counselors.

Cancer Screening Guidelines assigned by USPTF, (The United States Preventative Services Task Force) and CDC (Center for Disease Control)