March is Colorectal Cancer Month. It seems like every month we see some sort of post regarding one type of cancer or another. Instead of looking at it as something negative, look at it as a reminder of what you can do to create healthy habits and understand your risks. Many forms of cancer, not just colorectal cancer, can be detected early and treated. Based on your family history, your primary physician can make recommendations for which preventive screenings would be best for you.
- Breast cancer — There are a few screening options, including mammograms. People who are high risk can start mammograms at age 40. By 50, mammograms should take place every 1 to 2 years.
- Colon cancer — Screenings can be in person with a colonoscopy or at home with a stool sample test. Most people who are low risk start getting screened at 50. People who are high risk due to family history may start screening earlier. The recommended screening age for Black Americans is 45. Colon cancer screenings are typically done every 10 years until you’re at least 75.
- Lung cancer — Screenings are done with CT scans, which use X-rays to make detailed pictures of structures inside the body. People who are 50 or older and have smoked 20 packs or more per year within the last 15 years should consider getting screened.
- Cervical cancer — Screenings are done with a Pap test or human papillomavirus (HPV) test. After age 21, doctors recommend screening every 3 to 5 years — or more often, depending on medical and screening history.
- Prostate cancer — Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests are blood tests that screen for prostate cancer, usually given to men who have no symptoms. A doctor can make a personalized recommendation on who should get screened. Due to higher risk, Black American men may start screening at 45.
Preventive screenings are not available for all types of cancer. You must also be aware of your changes in your health.
- Symptoms are what a person experiences physically or mentally. For example, bright red blood after a bowel movement can be from rectal bleeding — a common symptom of colorectal cancer.
- Signs are observable characteristics a doctor can identify. Early signs of skin cancer, for example, are changes in shape, color, or size of moles or lesions.
Early detection is the key. These symptoms or signs may not have anything to do with cancer, which is why it’s so important that you visit your primary physician annually or if symptoms persist. Schedule an appointment with your doctor today.