UK HealthCare

Detect Cancer Early with Regular Screenings

Dr. Reema Patel
Dr. Reema Patel, medical oncologist at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Dr. Reema Patel, medical oncologist with the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 3, 2020) — World Cancer Day is Feb. 4. This initiative was born 20 years ago with the goal to reduce the global cancer burden. Although Kentucky still ranks first in the nation for cancer incidence and death, there is some good news – the American Cancer Society recently reported a record drop in cancer rates in the U.S., and we are following that trend.

One of the best ways to reduce cancer rates is to increase cancer screenings. A screening exam is a medical test done when you’re healthy. It helps provide a baseline for your health going forward, and regular screenings help your doctors find cancer at its earliest – and most treatable – stages.

Cancer screening recommendations vary, depending on the test or exam. They may also vary depending on your age, gender, personal health and family history. Not every cancer has a screening test available, but here are some general guidelines on the screenings you might be eligible for.

Breast cancer: The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammograms every 1-2 years age 50-74, but like many other cancer doctors, I continue to recommend a yearly mammogram for women 40 or over. If you have a family history of breast cancer, speak with your health care provider about screening at an earlier age.   

Cervical cancer: Women ages 21-65 should talk with their healthcare provider about screening with a Pap smear or human papillomavirus (HPV) test and how often you should have these exams.

Colon and rectal cancer: A colonoscopy is not the only option for screening – consult your health care provider to determine which test is right for you. Per USPSTF, most average-risk adults ages 50-75 can be screened once per year with an at-home stool blood test, every five years with a sigmoidoscopy or every 10 years with a colonoscopy.

Lung cancer: Once per year if you are between the ages 55-80, currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years and have an extensive smoking history, such as one pack a day for 30 years. Talk with your health care provider to determine your specific eligibility for a low-dose CT scan.

Ovarian cancer: In Kentucky, ovarian screening is free as part of ongoing study to assess the effectiveness of transvaginal ultrasonography in detecting ovarian cancers. All women over the age of 50, or women over the age of 25 with a family history of ovarian cancer, are eligible for a free screening. Visit the Ovarian Screening Program site for more information.

Prostate cancer: At age 50, men should have discussion with their health care provider about pros and cons of testing to decide if it’s the right choice for them.

Skin cancer: Once per year is recommended, but it is best to speak to a dermatologist to determine your risk.

Most importantly, pay attention to your body and let your healthcare provider know about any changes.