Cancer Care Makes More Progress
An important note is that these cancer numbers do not include
basal or squamous skin cancers, which on their own account for over a million
new cases every year. These cancers are not fatal but can be disfiguring if not
And there is plenty you can do to make sure you stay on guard.
Although there is some disagreement on the best route for preventing and
finding cancer early, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the
following cancer check-ups to continue our fight against this killer:
- Monthly self-breast exams beginning at age 20;
- Between age 20 and 39, women should have a breast exam by a doctor every
- Beginning at 40, women should have a yearly mammogram and breast exam by a
Note: The Canadian Task Force has concluded that breast
self-exam is of no benefit and may be harmful to women. The ACS will take these
findings into consideration in their upcoming update of their guidelines.
- Yearly Pap smears should begin at age 18 or earlier if sexually
- After three yearly normal Pap smears, testing can be done less frequently
at the discretion of the doctor.
- The ACS recommends regular Pap smears throughout life.
Hopefully, guidelines in 2003 will answer the question about
Pap smears in women who have had a hysterectomy.
If at average risk, beginning at age 50, you should have one of
the following five options:
- Yearly stool test for blood called "fecal occult blood test," or
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years;
- Yearly FOBT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years;
- Double contrast barium enema every five years;
- Colonoscopy every 10 years. The ACS recommends the combination of FOBT with
sigmoidoscopy rather than either one alone.
The ACS does not recommend any check-ups for uterine cancer
unless a woman has symptoms, usually bleeding after menopause.
- Yearly prostate-specific-antigen blood test, or PSA, and digital rectal
exam (finger exam by a doctor) beginning at age 50.
- Men at high risk, including blacks and men with a father or brother who had
prostate cancer before age 50, should begin testing at 45.
- If multiple family members have had prostate cancer, testing could begin at
The ACS does not recommend any testing for early lung cancer
detection. They do say, however, that testing can be done if a doctor and
patient decide to do so. There is no confirmed good test for lung cancer. But
spiral CT has looked promising in several studies, although the true benefit of
this test has not been proven.
- Your doctor also can examine you for signs of other cancers that affect the
thyroid, testicles, ovaries, lymph nodes, mouth, and skin. Also, you can talk
to your doctor about how you can do self-exams of your skin, as well as breasts
in women and testicles in young men.
- The ACS recommends a cancer-related check-up every three years for people
20 to 39 and every year for men and women beginning at 40.