Though you may not look forward to them, preventive screenings offer some of medicine's best methods for catching cancer before it becomes deadly. Colonoscopy, pap smears and mammography, for example, are some of the most powerful life-saving tools doctors have at their disposal.
Discuss with your physician which screening tests you should schedule, as well as when and how often they should be performed. Ask again at each visit, because guidelines change as new data constantly refines best recommendations. In addition, your doctor may recommend a different screening schedule than the general guidelines based on your personal history, your family history or other factors.
If you're uneasy about screenings, talk to your doctor. He or she can ease worries about a colonoscopy, for example, by explaining more about the procedure.
TAKE ACTION: Talk to your doctor about your family and personal history and learn which tests you should schedule. For motivation, read a cancer screening success story.
The HPV vaccine has a clear record of lowering cervical cancer rates in women, and is now being recommended for boys as well as girls because it shows promise in preventing head and neck cancer, too.
TAKE ACTION: Take advantage of a vaccine that can prevent cancer. The HPV vaccination is recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.
#8: Consider Genetic Counseling.
For those with a family history of certain cancers, information about our genes can offer choices in dealing with our genetic destiny.
A woman who carries the BRCA breast cancer gene, for example, who has watched families members die at an early age may choose preventive mastectomy rather than risk extremely high odds of developing the same illness. For other cancers, such as colorectal cancer, the presence of a gene may signal the need for increased vigilance, with more frequent screenings to catch any abnormality early.
Genetic screening took center stage last year as actress Angelina Jolie shared her decision to have a preventive mastectomy in response to her own genetic risk.
Genetic counselor at SLU Cancer Center Suzanne Mahon, says that "In deciding whether or not to have the screening, patients should ask 'Is this something I really want to know about myself. If I know I am at high genetic risk of developing cancer, am I going to do something with this information?'
"Genetic counseling and testing can clarify your risk of cancer. If you under-estimate your risk, you might not have the information you need to make good decisions about prevention and early detection. If we prove you don't have the risk, it can be a big relief."
Source: Saint Louis University Cancer Center