The Power of Cancer Screenings
Emi Yoshida, MD
As care providers, our goal is to do everything in our power to give each
of our patients an upper hand – to ensure that they are provided
with the highest level of care and to increase their chances of positive
treatment outcomes. For our patients, screenings are that upper hand.
Screenings are the best way for physicians to identify signs of trouble
and to react to them as quickly as possible. In the best cases, screenings
allow for early intervention and preventive treatments. And even when
they detect cancer, early detection gives cancer patients a much wider
scope of treatment options that have the potential to drastically
improve their outcomes.
Early Detection is Essential
Screenings are our primary method of detection, both for cancerous and
pre-cancerous lesions in the body. It’s important to remember that
not all positive screenings are indicative of cancer. Rather, these screenings
are designed to detect abnormalities or unusual cell activity in the body
that may contribute to a patient’s risk for cancer or other complications.
In order to receive an actual cancer diagnosis, biopsy or additional tests
are used to confirm cancerous cell activity.
Types of Screenings
Your primary care physician will screen for a variety of cancers during
your annual physicals and regular wellness checkups, but it is still helpful
to know about a few types of preventive screenings that are essential
for keeping you healthy and catching any early signs of trouble.
Prostate checks: In addition to detecting any physical signs of trouble, these screenings
are equally helpful in terms of obtaining a detailed
genetic or family history and assessing your personal level of future risk. Prostate checks are
typically conducted by your primary care physician, and will likely take
place during your annual physical.
Pap smears: For adult women, pap smears and a few additional screenings are typically
conducted during annual physicals and OB/GYN appointments. Pap smears
look for abnormal cell activity, and pelvic exams help detect abnormal
tissue in and around the female reproductive system.
Mammograms: Women over the age of 40 will likely receive mammograms during their annual
physicals, OB/GYN appointments. However,
breast cancer can occur earlier in a woman’s life as well, so it is important
for women to inform their doctors if they notice or feel any changes in
their breasts during self-checks.
Lung cancer: Low-dose CT scans can be a valuable tool for detecting lung cancer at its
earliest and most treatable stages. Washington Hospital offers a screening
and prevention program that focuses on prevention measures for
high risk patients, and offers helpful resources to those who are currently smoking or who
have a history of smoking.
Colonoscopy: For anyone over the age of 50 or with a genetic predisposition for colorectal
cancers, these screenings are crucial for maintaining your colon health
and monitoring any abnormal activity that may contribute to colon cancer later on.
When in doubt, it is always best to contact your primary care physician
with any concerns about your health. They will not only be able to help
you navigate any necessary screenings, but they will also help you coordinate
potential treatment plans as well.
When Screenings Come Back Positive
We never want to see abnormal results come back, but when we do, Washington
Hospital Healthcare System has a wide scope of tools that allow us to
make diagnoses and formulate treatment plans quickly.
For our patients in the
Radiation Oncology Center (ROC), we use the results of these diagnostic tests to help us design
individualized treatment plans, and to identify the best possible course
of care for each patient. We determine which
radiation therapies to utilize and continue to support patients throughout their ongoing treatment
and recovery plans.
Patients have their cases presented to our tumor board, a multi-disciplinary
team comprised of cancer specialists who work together to review and monitor
the patient’s case at every stage, from diagnosis to recovery. This
added insight helps us ensure that each patient is getting the highest
level of personalized care possible.
Washington Hospital website to learn more about
cancer care, your personal screening options, or the treatments we offer through the
UCSF – Washington Cancer Center.
Posted April, 2020