NP Corner

Cancer Screenings: Hearing about it may get old, but it's only to help you get old!

by Sherry Tindall MSN FNP BC

As you have been browsing through the website of St. Louis Heart and Vascular you have probably noticed that we have expanded our horizons a bit and have added a new specialty to our group of fine cardiologists. It is with great pleasure that we are welcoming Dr. Gibran Mahmud, specialist in hematology and oncology. With his arrival, what better time to remind everyone of the importance of cancer screenings. The following are some of the recommended guidelines from the American Cancer Society:

Breast Cancer

  • It is important for women to know the normal shape, appearance and texture of their breasts and to report any changes to their health care provider right away. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting at the age of 20.
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) performed by a health care provider is recommended every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and yearly for women 40 and older.
  • Mammograms are recommended starting at the age of 40.

Colon and Rectal Cancer and Polyps

  • Beginning at the age of 50, both men and women should undergo a colonsocopy every 10 years. Other testing that can detect cancer or polyps and can be discussed with your health care provider to include:
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy recommended every 5 years.
    • Double-contrast barium enemea every 5 years.
    • CT colonography every 5 years

Lung Cancer

The American Cancer Society does not have recommended testing for those at low risk, however screening for high risk individuals due to cigarette smoking is recommended. Screening with a low-does CT scan of the chest may be recommended if an individual is:

  • In relatively good health
  • Is 55-74 years of age
  • Has a history of smoking 1 pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or 2 packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years or more and is still smoking or has quit smoking within the last 15 years.

Prostate Cancer

The American Cancer Society states that starting at the age of 50, men should discuss the pros and cons of testing with their physicians. If testing is chosen, a PSA bood test with or without a rectal exam should be performed. repeat intervals are based upon the results.

African American men who have a first degree relative (father or borther) who had prostate cancer before the age of 65 should discuss testing with their physician at the age of 44

Other cancers specific to women such as cervical, endometrial and ovarian should be discussed in detail with their GYN providers and consistent follow up is important.

Checking your skin for any changes in existing moles or lesions as well as developments of new ones is important. If you are a sun worshipper, routine visits to a dermatologist for a full body screen is advised.

These guidelines may vary for some based on family history, previously abnormal results and other genetic tendencies. It is important to follow up routinesly with your healthcare provider and always discuss any changes in your overall health.

Be proactive in reducing your cancer risk:

  • Avoid tobacco. If you don't smoke, dont' start, if you do talk to your health care provider about a plan for quitting.
  • Maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
  • Avoid sun exposure as much as possible. If you have to be in the sun, use a sunscreen.
  • Learn your family history and your personal risk factors.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit Alcohol.
  • Get moving! Do some form of physical activity at least 3 times per week.
  • Follow up with your health care provider routinely and get your cancer screenings on schedule.

While prevention is the ideal goal when it comes to cancer, early detection is key to successful treatment.

For more details about the information provided above, please visit