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Cancer Screening Tests Everyone Should Know

Kimmel Cancer experts frequently say that “the best way to cure cancer is to prevent it from ever occurring.”  Most experts agree that currently-available cancer screening tests have lead to a decline in cancer deaths.  Moreover, they allow cancers to be detected early, making more treatment options available to patients. Let me say up front, that the cancer screening guidelines I discuss here are general guidelines recommended for people with no symptoms or family history of a particular cancer.  All others should talk to their doctors to determine what screening tests they should have and how frequently they should be screened.  With that said, here are four cancer screening tests that women and men should have--but many do not.  If you are among the do not’s, I hope you will read this and reconsider.  Cancer screening saves lives!

Colonscopy (Colon Cancer)

“Colonscopy has been shown to be the most effective colon cancer screening method for men, and a recent study has demonstrated its efficacy in women as well,” says Michael Choti, cancer surgeon and director of the Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Center.  Colorectal cancer experts say that this cancer is typically slow growing, taking five to 10 years to develop.  When benign or precancerous polyps are removed during colonoscopy screenings, colon cancer may be prevented from developing at all, they say.

Experts in our Colon Cancer Center recommend that people with no symptoms or history of colon cancer, have a colonoscopy at age 50 and every ten years thereafter.

To schedule a colonoscopy at Johns Hopkins, call 410-955-4166.

Mammogram (Breast Cancer)

Experts at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center recommend annual screening mammograms for women who are 40 years or older, or for younger women with specific risk factors for breast cancer. You don’t have to have any signs or symptoms of a breast abnormality in order to receive a screening; they are used for the early detection of breast cancer and other breast health issues.

To schedule a screening mammogram, call 410-955-4100.

PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) Test (Prostate Cancer)

Johns Hopkins urology and prostate cancer experts recommend that men have their first digital rectal exam and PSA blood test at age 40 to establish a baseline PSA number.  This number, and how fast it changes, helps guide doctors on how frequently a man should come back for further prostate cancer screening.  Dr. Ballentine Carter adds that men over 75 who have a PSA of 3 or lower may discontinue PSA screening, but only after consulting with their doctor.  Johns Hopkins studies by Dr. Ballentine and others suggest that men 75-80 years old with PSAs below 3 are unlikely to be diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer.

For appointments, call 410-955-6100.

Pap Test (Cervical Cancer)

To screen for cervical cancer, our experts recommend that all women who are or have been sexually active, or are age 18 or older, should have regular gynecological checkups, including a pelvic exam and Pap test, to detect any abnormal changes to the cervix as early as possible. As with many types of cancer, cervical cancer is more likely to be successfully treated if it is detected early. Pap tests can also detect inflammation caused by yeast infections; bacterial infections such as trichonomas, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia; other viruses; medications or other chemicals; hormones; and pregnancy.

To schedule a Pap test at Johns Hopkins, call 410-955-6700.

2 thoughts on “Cancer Screening Tests Everyone Should Know”

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your prstneeation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    1. Valerie Matthews-Mehl

      Dear Hasan, As you clearly recognize, cancer is a very complicated disease. We try to condense and compose this complex scientific and medical information in to easy-to-understand terminology. What I discussed in the blog are, of course, general recommendations. We encourage everyone to work with his or her primary care doctor to develop the individual cancer screening plan that is right for them, based on medical history, family history, and lifestyle factors.

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