Cancer screenings can save lives so don’t delay

Getting mammograms is an important preventative tool for optimal health.

It’s no secret that preventative care is important to maintaining good health. We should eat nutrient-rich foods, exercise, take time for mental wellness and see our primary care physician once a year. But another important part of staying healthy is cancer screenings, which may not be top of mind if you don’t feel sick or there is a world health pandemic.

Marjon Monfared, MD, is Board-certified in Family Medicine and provides care for patients at AdventHealth Medical Group Primary Care at Shawnee Crossings. Although most of Monfared’s patients are agreeable about scheduling cancer screenings, it can sometimes be challenging.

“As many of us juggle our commitments, there is a temptation to place screening further down the list of priorities, and scheduling and attending procedures carries little urgency when we feel well otherwise,” said Monfared. “However, the very idea behind cancer screening is to detect and treat cancers early, often at an asymptotic stage, to improve survival. For example, if breast cancer is detected at stage I or II, it is associated with 95% survival at five years, but this figure drops precipitously to 25% if detected at stage III.”

Although many hospitals, including AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, are now reopening for medical procedures, COVID-19 forced hospitals to postpone routine cancer screenings. Additionally, some patients have been reluctant to visit their physicians because of the virus. Monfared suggests that we may see the repercussions of this in the future and it’s imperative that patients catch up on their screenings now if possible.

“A cancer that may have been caught at stage I may now not be caught until stage III,” said Monfared. “It is estimated that possibly 50,000 or more avoidable deaths may result from delaying cancer screening services by six months.”

The top three cancer screenings include breast, cervical and colorectal. The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends a risk assessment for women every one to three years starting at age 25 and a baseline mammogram at age 40, then yearly thereafter. For cervical cancer screening, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends a PAP test every three years for women starting at age 21. At age 30, women should have a PAP test with an HPV test every five years until age 65. The USPSTF recommends colorectal screening starting at age 50. It should be repeated every five to 10 years to check for colon cancer until age 75.

The other cancer screenings your PCP may suggest include lung (if you are a current smoker or have been a heavy smoker in the past from age 55), skin or prostate cancer screenings. These screenings are not recommended for everyone so speak with your PCP.

“The age at first screening, frequency and screening for other cancers such as prostate and skin must be individualized, based on a patient’s risk factors,” said Monfared. “It is very important to discuss the potential benefits and risks with your primary care physician and to incorporate your values and preferences in the decision making process.”

To learn more about cancer screenings at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, visit AdventHealthKC.com.

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