2021 Cancer Guide

Early cancer detection provides more treatment options & saves lives

Dr. George Howard, for Beaumont
Don’t wait to schedule a cancer screening test. Early detection usually means a better chance of survival.

You’ve probably heard about the importance of detecting cancer early. Early detection benefits both the patient and his or her medical team. If cancer is found before an individual experiences symptoms, it gives us more treatment options and a better chance for the patient’s survival. The best way to find cancer early is through periodic screening tests.

Many mistakenly believe cancer screenings are just for older adults. Not true. Cervical cancer screenings begin at age 25, breast cancer screenings at 40, and colorectal cancer screenings at 45. For those considered high risk, the recommended ages can be younger.

Dr. George Howard is chief of Oncology at Beaumont Hospital, Troy.

Pandemic causing many to cancel or delay cancer screenings

Sadly, the pandemic has led to people canceling or delaying their regularly scheduled cancer screenings. A study published in JAMA Oncology, “Association of Cancer Screening Deficit in the United States With the COVID-19 Pandemic,” reported that in 2020, nearly 10 million cancer screenings did not take place. The researchers saw sharp declines in breast, colorectal and prostate screenings.

Don’t let the pandemic be your excuse. Contact your primary care physician and ask if you are due for a cancer screening.  For more information, visit beaumont.org/cancer.

Recommended age for colorectal screening drops to 45

Recently, the recommended age for colorectal screenings dropped from 50 to 45. Why the change? An alarming trend in the rising cases of colorectal cancer in those younger than 50 prompted the shift.

While more research is needed, some possible reasons for the increase of colorectal cancer rate in those under 50 include:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Environment
  • Gut health
  • Genetics

Common screening tests with age recommendations

Along with colorectal cancer screenings, here are some of the more common screening tests with age recommendations. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are for those considered at average risk of developing cancer. Depending on factors like family history and your health history, your physician may encourage you to get a specific screening test early. You need to talk with your primary care physician, internist, gynecologist or urologist and ask for their recommendation.

  • Cervical cancer, age 25: HPV test, Pap test
  • Skin cancer, age 35: Full-body skin exam
  • Breast cancer, age 40: Mammogram
  • Colorectal cancer, age 45: Colonoscopy, fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Lung cancer, age 50: CT scan
  • Prostate cancer, age 55: PSA test, digital rectal exam

Lifestyle choices can help decrease your odds of developing cancer, including:

  • Eat healthy: This includes eating leaner proteins, less fat and added sugar, more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise and stay active
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol
  • Wear sunscreen

Screening programs encourage community members to get tested and if cancer is detected, the goal is to catch it early, improving treatment options. Talk with your doctor about your cancer risk. I recommend all men and women have an annual health checkup after age 40. Despite the pandemic, I encourage you to schedule your cancer screening test. Don’t wait, early detection usually means a better chance of survival.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Dr. George Howard is chief of Oncology at Beaumont Hospital, Troy.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
More from 2021 Cancer Guide