I shall make a bold claim, most people take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies! People take their cars in for regular maintenance and screenings. Cars have recalls, oil changes and scheduled tune ups. I know that I don’t delay my car appointment too long. But how often do we delay, or skip, the maintenance for our bodies? How often do you floss your teeth or go in for regular dental cleanings? Do you take a multivitamin and eat 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies daily? I’m speaking to the men here, have you ever ignored a medical symptom longer than normal? Routine screenings and medical appointments are important. Perhaps this rant was overly dramatic, but I needed something to hook you in. It will also keep you reading when I start talking about awkward bits.
Has everyone undergone routine screening for colon, cervix, breast and prostate cancer? I warned you it would get awkward. These screenings are important and should not be delayed, there will be a heartwarming story at the end of this article. These screenings for cancers do involve awkward and uncomfortable tests but the benefits of early detection far outway the risk and inconveniences.
Cervical cancer is a routine screening that most Physicians perform on their female patients. This is why your Physician does a Pap test every 2-3 years. In fact, screening for cervical cancer every 3 years can reduce your risk of developing this cancer by 70 percent. Survival rates with early detection are over 85%. Cervical cancer rarely causes symptoms, but they may include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge and pelvic pain. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, or have not had a Pap test in the last three years, please see your Physician.
Prostate cancer was diagnosed in over 3,000 BC men in 2012, that is about 1 in 7 men within their lifetime. The most common sign of prostate cancer, or an enlarged prostate, are difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or urinary frequency (especially at night). At this point, your Physician will perform a quick finger rectal exam to check the health of the prostate, or send you in for a blood test. This blood test is checking for a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). If these results come back with positive results there are several treatment options. One treatment option is to do nothing. Well not really nothing, but it is call active surveillance. You go have your PSA checked on a regular basis and monitor prostate symptoms. If there are no significant changes, no further treatment may be required. Prostate cancer screening can be a relatively minor procedure and no further action may be required, but it is still good to know.
Colon cancer is the second most common form of cancer and third most common for women. It is thought that 1,300 BC residents will die of colon cancer each year. My youngest aunt was one of them. Unusual symptoms of blood in the stool, narrow stools, unexpected weight loss or changes in bowel frequency should be brought to the attention of your Physician. Normally screening tests might include a stool sample or a colonoscopy. Screening is very important because they can detect colon polyps (clumps of cells), and remove these before they become cancerous. At this point there is an issue with the stool sample testing, so check with your Doctor's office about screening options.
I always save the best for last. Breast cancer always gets the attention and rightfully so. It is the most common form of cancer in women, if you ignore non-melanoma skin cancer. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. While it is true that screening is a little bit uncomfortable, it can lead to early detection. Most women over the age of 40 are eligible for a mammogram without a Doctor’s referral. This is where the heart warming story comes in. A friend and important member of our staff was one of these early detection stories. A routine mammogram picked up a lump so small that neither her surgeon nor Physician could feel it. For the holidays we are wishing her a speedy recovery and thankful that she had the vision to take charge of her health.
May you and yours have a happy and healthy holiday season.