October 27, 2020
by Sagan Dobie, PA-C

Sagan Dobie, PA-C, North Mankato Family Medicine 

According to a survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, more than a third of American adults have skipped scheduled cancer screenings during the pandemic.

Cancer isn’t waiting for COVID-19 to end. So don’t let it delay your routine cancer screenings. Screenings are tests to find cancer before symptoms show up. Common screenings include regular mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap tests. These are the best methods to detect cancer in its earliest stages when it’s easiest to treat.

Here’s an easy guide to routine cancer screenings.

Cervical cancer

Pap smears are recommended every three years for women age 21-29 to screen for cervical cancer. From age 30 to 65, the preferred screening method is a Pap test combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every three to five years.

These screenings can actually prevent cervical cancer because we can detect abnormal cervical cell changes, known as pre-cancers. We can treat the abnormal cells before they can turn into a cervical cancer.

Breast cancer

The American College of Radiology recommends that women of average risk should get annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Mammograms are not a one and done! Annual mammograms allow us to compare your breast tissue from year to year and look for any changes. If you have a higher risk for breast cancer, annual mammograms may be recommended earlier. Talk with your primary care provider to see when it’s right for you to begin screening mammograms.

Colorectal cancer

If you’re 50, it’s time for a colonoscopy. From age 50 to 75, the U.S. Preventive Task Force recommends colonoscopies every 10 years or sooner with a family history of colon cancer. This is the only screening that can prevent colorectal cancer by removing pre-cancerous polyps.

You may have risk factors that require earlier screenings. If you think you may be at an increased risk, learn your family health history and ask your doctor if screening should begin before age 50. And if you are African American, please talk with your provider about being screened at age 45.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer can be screened with a CT which stands for computed tomography. The screening only takes a few minutes and requires no injections or dyes. If you smoke or quit smoking in the last 15 years, are between the ages of 55 and 77 and have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer, you may qualify for an annual CT screening. Talk with your primary care provider.

Skin cancer

Skin cancers are the most common cancer in the U.S. A full-body skin exam by a dermatologist can help detect skin cancer early when it is most treatable. Risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, sunburns, excessive sun exposure, moles or a family history of skin cancer. Talk with your primary care provider to see if a full-body skin exam is advised.

Prostate cancer

Men’s risk for prostate cancer increases with age, particularly after age 50. Urologists recommend all men age 50 and older get a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam. African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should begin this screening at age 40. The PSA test is a guide to identify a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer.

Patient Safety

Annual check-ups are the easiest way to stay up-to-date on routine cancer screenings. Medical clinics have put extra precautions in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff. To learn more about patient safety at Mankato Clinic, visit safemankatoclinic.com.

We are prepared to care for you. So don’t skip your annual check-up and routine cancer screenings.