Cancer Screening is One of the Greatest Public Health Achievements (CDC)
Medical technology has the capability to detect the earliest forms of cancer while the disease is still treatable, and often curable. This is especially true regarding colorectal, breast, and cervical cancers.
Yet, cancer remains the 2nd leading cause of death in the US. A substantial proportion of African American women are not aware of the benefits of early detection. (Bazargan 2015)
Here are highly effective cancer screenings for women –
Mammography, the most common screening for breast cancer, can reveal changes in the breast up to 2 years before a patient or physician can feel them. (Hafslund 2014) Today digital mammography is used, providing a sharper image with lower radiation. Tomosynthesis acquires low-dose X-ray images from multiple angles and reconstructs these images into a series of high-resolution “slices”. This is especially helpful for women with dense breast tissue. Research suggests that tomosynthesis increases breast cancer detection and decreases false recalls. (Friedewald 2014, Cosedine 2014) MRI and ultrasound are sometimes used for supplemental screening in high-risk women and women with dense breast tissue. (Pace 2014)
Pap test (or Pap smear) is the most reliable effective cervical cancer screening. Cervical cells are easily collected through the vagina and then examined under a microscope for signs of disease. An HPV test may also be performed to identify possible infections caused by several types of human papillomavirus linked to cervical cancer. Screening with both the Pap test and HPV test have been shown to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases. (Hubbard 2011)
Colorectal cancers typically begin as a polyp, a growth in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most will not develop into cancer, but a certain type of polyp (adenoma) has a greater risk of becoming cancerous. If removed early, cancer can be prevented. High-sensitivity stool-based (fecal-occult) blood tests (FOBT) check for blood in the stool that can’t be detected visually, which could be caused by a bleeding polyp or cancer. There are three types of stool-based tests approved by the FDA to screen for colorectal cancer. If a test is positive, the next step is to have a timely colonoscopy. A colonoscope (a long flexible, lighted tube) is used to view and removed polyps or abnormal tissue.
Be proactive and discuss these screenings with your doctor to reduce your cancer risk. Share the importance of screening and early detection with other women you care about too!