Screenings for the New Year

This is not about weight loss. Most of us can tell we are at by looking in the mirror and I’m tired of hearing about fad diet and fad diet pills. No, this is about other healthy screening.  This being the New Year I hope everyone is on track for a healthy self. There are screenings for everything including depression, alcoholism, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, sexual transmitted infections like chlamydia and HIV. The list goes on to include diabetes, thyroid problems, heart disease, osteoporosis, skin cancer, hepatitis, and of course cholesterol.

It’s important to know these screenings have been studied and recognized through these scientific studies to be cost effective in identifying and treating health problems before they begin or worsen.  That means if it can be treated and fixed, it should be screened for. Usually this means a one-time trip to your health care provider, and maybe another trip to get the test done once a year. These screenings can SAVE YOUR LIFE!  Look at how cervical cancer deaths have so dropped since the invent of the pap test. If you are getting regular pap tests cervical cancer can be cured.  With information from studies on Human papilloma Virus the pap test guidelines have changed.

Paps are recommended to start at 21years of age and then every 3-5 years from 21-65., So, take care of yourself and get that done!

Colorectal cancer is the only cancer that is actually preventable. Yes it is preventable.  A colonoscopy, recommended to start at age 50 then every 10 years for healthy people, views the entire colon and small polyps can be found that turn into cancer. They are removed at this time, therefore preventing colon cancer. You can also use a hemacult stool test, which is an easy, cheap do it yourself at home test .It can be combined with a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years. The hemacult test determines if there is blood in the stool, if yours comes back positive, unless your provider determines it is from hemorrhoids or another external cause you must have a colonoscopy. There is the virtual colonoscopy where CT scans are used to see the polyps. Also a double contrast barium enema provides x-rays of the lesions. These still require the awful cleansing the night before, and if a polyp is seen you still need a colonoscopy.  Colon cancers are detected and cured this way. If you have a family history of colon cancer your screenings should be more frequent.

In the same area, prostate and testicular cancer screenings have changed lately, well in the last 5 years. A clinical testicular exam is recommended annually starting at 18. Men should also examine themselves monthly. Remember 2 testicles are good 3 is too many. PSA blood test used to be done every year, but now not so much unless you have family history.

For breast cancer prevention The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at 40, clinical breast exams every 3 years and recommends you get to know your breast so that if something unusual comes up you will recognize it.

I’ve known quite a few women that found their own cancers because they know their breast tissue. Hey. It’s just a simple self-breast exam. Another screening group USPSTF, my own personal opinion is that they want to save money for insurance companies, recommend mammograms every 2 years after 40. Note that these are basic guidelines if you have no family history of anything.

Here is a brand new screening opportunity for smokers.  Only recommended if you smoke 30 pack years, which could be about a pack a day for 30 years .Smokers need to be 55- 74 years old and in good health. It’s  a low dose CAT scan done by places that are familiar with lung cancer screening.

So just a day or two a year for this stuff can provide you with many more years of fishing and diving in Paradise!

Now, just a note about the people that come up with these screening guides. USPSTF- United States Preventive Services Task Force was stablished in 1984.It is a group of independent national experts in screening and evidence based medicine that work to improve the health of Americans. They are from all areas of medicine and volunteer their time.  Most of the 16 volunteers are practicing clinicians.

The American Cancer Society, as we all know is a national voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.Their website states they have been researching cancer for 65 years. 47 of their researchers have won Nobel Prizes.  The ACS has developed screening guides since 1980. Staring with one evidence based medical physician.  Now, there are 9 steps or stages that must be followed when they develop or revise guidelines. The team is multidisciplinary and they review scientific evidence.

Carolyn has lived in the Florida Keys since 1992, presently practicing at Womankind in Key West and has taught nursing and practiced as a Nurse practitioner since 1979.