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Cancer Screenings

Deaths from the major types of cancer have declined in recent years, primarily because of earlier detection.

Cancer deaths are declining, yet many more lives could be saved if more people took advantage of the various cancer screenings offered.  Finding cancers in an early stage improves the likelihood of successful treatment, says Dr. David Steward, professor of internal medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  He explains the most important cancer screenings.

“... the three that most people are familiar with are Pap smears for cervical cancer which has been around for a long time. The other ones that are common now are mammograms for breast cancer and some kind of test for colon cancer, either stool tests that see whether there is microscopic blood in the stool or colonoscopy ..."

Dr. Steward says women should start getting Pap smear or Pap test screenings when they become sexually active.  Mammograms should begin at age 40 or 50.  Both men and women should be screened for colon cancer at age 50.  He says screenings need to be repeated at various intervals.

“So screening for colon cancer and using colonoscopy to do that and if the first colonoscopy is totally normal, the next one can happen a decade later, ten years later.  For mammography, anywhere between one and two years is the interval between screenings.  For Pap smears, if all the Pap smears are completely normal, they can be done every two or three years...”

Dr. Steward encourages people to take advantage of screening opportunities through their personal physicians or community programs offered by county health departments or local hospitals.

Ruth Slottag