Monday, May 14, 2012

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. – At this time of year, with Mother's Day recently behind us, it's a perfect opportunity to remember your mother's advice to take care of yourself and schedule your health screening exams.

Health screenings are an important part of prevention and early detection for cancer. And, the earlier we can detect cancer, the more our chances of fighting it improve.

Breast Cancer

According to Breast Health Patient Navigator, Laura Umbrell, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among women in the United States.

“Over 200,000 new cases are reported in the US each year, and actually about 2,000 of those cases are in men,” Gordon said. “And, of those, 10,000 are from Pennsylvania.”

Gordon, the breast health navigator at Rhonda Brake Shreiner Women’s Center in Chambersburg, Pa, said that finding breast cancer when it is in its earliest stages is very important.

“Three methods are used for early detection of breast cancer: breast self-examination, an examination by a health professional, and the use of mammograms and/or ultrasounds where appropriate,” Gordon noted. 

Guidelines For Breast Cancer Screening

  • Age 20 and older – self breast exam
  • Age 20 to 40 – clinical breast exam every 3 years, self breast exams
  • Age 40 and older – mammogram every year, self breast exams and clinical exams

Colorectal Cancer

Fawaz Hakki, MD, is a Gastroenterologist at Summit Gastroenterology in Waynesboro. He reported that colorectal cancer is the number two cancer killer in the United States.

“However,” he added. “Colorectal cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.”

Hakki advised, if you have a sibling or a parent with a history of colon cancer or precancerous polyps, you should have your first screening at age 40, or 10 years prior to the age your relative was when first diagnosed (whichever is earlier).

African Americans have a higher risk of colorectal cancer and should begin receiving screenings at the age of 45.

For all others of average risk, screenings should begin at age 50, with follow-ups every 10 years.

Skin Cancer

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States,” Pamela Ross, PA-C, of Summit Plastic Surgery & Skin Care Center, said. “It’s important to look for the warning signs, and that is as easy as knowing your ABCs.”

Ross gave some easy to remember tips to help you identify moles that could possibly be cancerous.

A: Asymmetry – if you draw a line through the middle of the mole, both sides should match. If they do not, the mole may be cancerous.

B: Borders – a cancerous mole usually has uneven notched or scalloped borders.

C: Color – a non-cancerous or benign mole is one color. Cancerous moles may have several colors throughout.

D: Diameter – if your mole is larger than the size of the eraser on your pencil, it could be cancerous.

E: Evolution – If any mole changes size, shape, color or behavior it should be examined.

Ross urged, “You need to use sun block SPF 30 or higher every two hours, if you are going to be spending any time outside. You should also avoid tanning beds.  Tanning bed use is associated with higher risks of all types of skin cancer including melanoma.”

If you have any question about the moles or marks on your body, talk to your health care provider immediately.

Cervical Cancer

Sulang Rosado, obstetrician and gynecologist at Summit Women’s Group  - Chambersburg, quoted the National Cancer Institute’s estimate that 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be discovered in 2012.

“As with all cancers, when found at an earlier stage, cervical cancer can be easier to treat,” Rosado said. “So it’s important to get regular screenings.”

She said a Pap test is the most common form of cervical cancer screening.

A pap test is a procedure that collects cells from the surface of the cervix.  The test can better detect changes in the cells of the cervix if they are done regularly.

According to Dr. Rosado, she still follows the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines which recommend that women should get annual Pap tests.  She said you should begin getting the Pap test at age 21.