They say you shouldn’t treat doctors’ offices like repair shops, waiting until there’s something wrong before you go in. Staying on top of your health by getting regular cancer screenings helps you spot a potential problem before it is too late.
This is especially important when it comes to cancer, particularly because Kentucky has the highest cancer death rate in the U.S.
If you’ve been slacking on your screenings, now is a great time to get them scheduled. Russell Eldridge, MD, an oncologist at Baptist Health Lexington, offers this list of screenings to schedule:
- Cervical Cancer. A Pap smear or Pap test is the best way to detect cervical cancer in women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women 21 and older receive a Pap test every three years.
- Colon Cancer. “This screening is important for both men and women and usually starts at age 50,” Dr. Eldridge said. For people with a family history, screenings may start earlier. A colonoscopy is the most common method. The frequency of screening depends on the method used, and whether anything abnormal is spotted, Dr. Eldridge said.
- Lung Cancer. Nearly 27% of Kentuckians are smokers. Since cigarette smoking is the No. 1 risk factor for lung cancer, if you’re a smoker or recently quit and are between the ages of 55 and 74, this screening is especially important.
- Breast Cancer. The ACS recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40, but guidelines vary based on family history and other risk factors, so talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
- Prostate Cancer. Screening with PSA testing (prostate-specific antigen) usually begins in healthy men at age 50, or earlier in men with above average risk such as strong family history.
“Screening is not prevention, so everyone needs to examine and modify their risk factors for cancer and heart disease like exercise and diet, Dr. Eldridge said. He added, “Keep up on your vaccines, including a yearly flu shot.”