If your doctor recommends you for cancer screening, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe you have cancer. The recommendation may be related to your age. As you get older, the risk for cancer increases. Screening is crucial in the management of cancer as the tests focus on identifying the disease in its earliest stages when the chances of curing or treating it are higher.
Cancer screening is usually performed when the person has no symptoms. Cancer symptoms only begin to appear when the cancer has grown and spread.
What are the commonly recommended cancer screening tests for older adults?
- Breast cancer screening. Recommended for women 40 to 74 years old, with special attention to women between the ages of 50 and 69 who are at average risk for breast cancer.
- Colorectal cancer screening. Recommended for individuals 45 to 75 years old who are at average risk for colorectal cancer.
- Lung cancer screening. Recommended for individuals 50 to 80 years old with a history of smoking.
It’s also important to mention that some cancer screening tests are no longer recommended when a person reaches a certain age. For example, if a prostate cancer screening is to be performed at all, it should stop by age 69. Cervical cancer screening is recommended starting at the age of 25 and may be stopped after 65 years of age in patients whose prior screenings have produced negative results. Colorectal cancer screening is not recommended in patients who are older than 85 years old.
What are the different types of screening tests?
- Physical exam. During a physical exam, your doctor will check for general signs of health. It will likely involve measuring vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Your doctor will evaluate your physical appearance, examine your head and neck, and check your muscles and organs with a stethoscope. A female exam may include looking for lumps in the breast area, while a male exam may involve a testicular exam. If your doctor doesn’t already have it, you will discuss your health history, such as your health habits, past illnesses, treatments, and so on.
- Lab tests. Lab tests analyze samples of your blood, urine, and body tissues to determine if their chemical components are within healthy ranges. Components that are typically checked include blood glucose, enzymes, electrolytes, hormones, and proteins. Lab tests also may be used to check for tumor markers. Genetic tests are another lab test that analyzes your cells or tissue for any abnormal changes in genes or chromosomes.
- Imaging procedures. There are different types of procedures that use imaging to detect internal abnormalities, such as colonoscopy, low-dose helical computed tomography, mammography, a transvaginal ultrasound, and breast MRI.
What should I ask my doctor about cancer screening?
- Are there any cancer screening tests recommended for me? If so, why?
- What do I need to do to prepare for cancer screening?
- Are there risks involved in undergoing the screening?
To learn more about cancer screening, prevention, and treatment, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology. At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.