“Many cancers are treatable and beatable—meaning a simple screening could save your life,” says Carmen Combs, the screening and
outreach coordinator for the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky.
Men: two-minute screening
Prostate cancer remains a leading cause of death in men, despite advances in treatment techniques. However, with early detection, the survival rate is very high. Annual screenings should begin at age 40, or at age 35 for minorities and other men with higher known risk factors, Combs says.
Screening consists of a blood test and physical examination of the prostate. The blood test, called a PSA, measures levels of a substance known as prostate-specific antigen. The “normal” range for PSA varies from man to man. However, a sharp increase from one year to the next is the best early indicator of possible prostate trouble.
The physical exam, called a digital rectal exam or DRE, is the part that gives men the most anxiety, Combs says. The exam involves only minor discomfort and takes only two minutes to complete.
“Certainly the benefits of early detection far outweigh the discomfort of the screening itself,” Combs says.
The Markey Cancer Center conducts free prostate cancer screenings three times a year in Lexington. The next will be from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on September 16. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (866) 340-4488.
Women: start early
Women should receive an annual Pap test (or Pap smear) to check for cervical cancer beginning at age 18 or earlier, within a year of initiating sexual intercourse. The Pap test, because it involves a pelvic examination, can cause similar anxiety in women as the DRE does in men, Combs says. The Pap test also involves only minor discomfort and takes just a few minutes.
Also starting at age 18, women should receive a yearly clinical breast exam and should begin performing monthly self-examinations. Mammograms to check for breast cancer should be performed annually starting at age 40. Women with a family history or other risk factors should consult with their physicians about screenings at an earlier age.
The Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program provides low- or no-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings through local health departments throughout the state. Call your local health department for more information.
Colonoscopy by 50 for all
Men and women both should be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50, or earlier if there is a family history or other risk factors. Screening colonoscopies are performed under sedation in an outpatient setting and typically need to be done only once every 10 years, Combs says.
Colorectal cancer is the No. 2 cancer killer and the ninth leading cause of death in the USA. In most cases, the disease can be cured, or even prevented, with timely screening.