Preventive health screenings have been found to significantly increase life expectancy, particularly among 30 to 49-year-olds, and just a handful of routine screenings can keep you on the path toward better health.

Biometric Screenings

Biometric screenings are used by primary care doctors as a quick check of weight, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and are recommended annually. During a biometric screening, a doctor will normally take a simple blood test and ask brief questions regarding your family history and behavior to help them evaluate your overall health.

These results give doctors an indication of a person’s health risks, and may indicate with other testing or intervention may be necessary. It’s a quick, painless way to take the pulse of your overall health.   

Mammography Screening

An estimated 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, regardless of race or ethnicity. Receiving regular screenings is the most effective way to detect breast cancer early, increasing the odds of effective treatment.  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).

The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends women who are 40-plus years of age with an average risk for breast cancer receive a mammogram every two years. Those with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, including the BRCA genetic mutations, are at a greater risk for developing breast cancer and earlier screenings may be recommended.

The screening options for breast cancer include digital mammography and tomosynthesis. Traditional 2D digital mammography gives doctors a better view of shadows, light and contrast when trying to identify cancerous cells. Tomosynthesis, a newer method of 3D mammography, creates images of multiple slices of the breast tissue, which gives doctors a clear vision of any masses that could be clouded by complex, overlapping breast tissue.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men in the U.S. The prostate is a gland that makes up part of the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer occurs when the prostate gland begins to grow abnormally with cancer cells. In its early stages, prostate cancer may have no symptoms, and can only be detected by a blood test or physical exam (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).

As a general rule, men should be screened for prostate cancer by age 50, but those with a family history of prostate cancer are at a greater risk for developing the disease and should be screened sooner, typically by age 40 or 45.

Multiple tests can be used to screen for prostate cancer. A blood test is commonly used to screen for any warning signs of prostate cancer. A doctor may also recommend a digital rectal exam, where they will physically feel for lumps in the prostate to determine if cancer is present.

Skin Cancer Screening

An estimated 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the U.S. (National Cancer Institute, 2019). The two most common forms of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell – are both highly treatable, particularly when caught early. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, puts patients at a much greater risk for treatment complications or death.

Prevention is the best method for avoiding skin cancers, but an annual visit to the dermatologist can help identify areas of concern on the skin that may need treatment. Additionally, skin self-exams can be performed at home. Look for any changes to your skin, including new or expanding growths, spots, or bumps; any sores that bleed and don’t heal for more than a few weeks; or rough or scaly red patches.

Colon Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death in men. A recent study found an alarming growth in the number of colorectal cancer cases in adults in their twenties and thirties, making regular screenings even more important for younger patients (American Cancer Society, 2019).

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in either the colon or the rectum. The cancer is often slow-developing, and normally occurs when precancerous abnormal growths –polyps – form in the colon or rectum.

The American Cancer Society recommends a regular screening every ten years beginning at age 45 for those at average risk for colon cancer. A colonoscopy is the most common method of screening for colorectal cancer. It allows doctors to identify problem-causing polyps and remove them at the same time.

Most of these screenings are simple and painless, and all of them can help save your life. Screenings can help physicians find diseases early, when they are easier to treat.

To schedule a screening or speak to a primary care provider, call 502-587-4011 or visit UofL Health today.

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Article by: Christin Honaker, M.D.

Christin Honaker, M.D., is an internal medicine specialist with UofL Physicians Primary Care Associates. She received her medical degree from the University of Kentucky.

All posts by Christin Honaker, M.D.
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