March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day in many countries around the world. It’s not only a day to honor and recognize women’s achievements, but also a day to empower women globally. The Saint John’s Cancer Institute is a cancer research institute dedicated to the understanding, diagnosis, and innovative treatment of cancer in order to eliminate patient suffering and prolong survival. In honor of International Women’s Day we want to empower and encourage all women to get screened for cancer. Screening programs help find cancer at an earlier stage, where it is more curable with better survival rates. Below we have listed the different cancer screening options available to empower women in the fight against cancer.

Breast Cancer Screening:

Mammograms are probably the most important tool providers use to screen for breast cancer. It is, also, used to diagnose, evaluate, and follow women who’ve had breast cancer and/or are at high risk due to genetic or family history. Safe and reasonably accurate, a mammogram is an X-ray photograph of the breast. The American Cancer Society recommends women should start their annual breast cancer screening with mammograms at age 40.  Clinical breast exams are recommended every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over. However, when it comes to your body, it’s important to know how your breasts look and feel normally. If you find any changes or have a family history of breast cancer, regardless of your age, you should discuss that with your health care provider and determine when you need to start getting screening imaging.

The Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center brings you some of the finest breast health care in Southern California. At the Margie Petersen Breast Center, we explain the benefits and limitations linked with yearly mammograms. This includes that screening should be continued regardless of a woman’s age, as long as there are no serious, chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or moderate to severe dementia.  Age alone should not be the reason to stop having regular mammograms. In fact, one of the biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer is getting older. Click here to learn more or call 310-582-7100, option 2 to schedule your next mammogram.

Cervical Cancer Screening:

The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus, connecting the vagina and uterus. Cervical cancer is mostly found in sexually active women, most commonly due to the HPV or Human Papillomavirus. Cervical pre-cancer or cancer can be detected using PAP smear screening and it’s treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Early stages of cervical cancer tends to not produce signs or symptoms, so it’s important to have regular pelvic exams and screening with PAP smears and HPV testing.

When it comes to diagnosing and treating cervical cancer, you want gynecologic oncology leaders by your side. Our center for integrative gynecologic oncology specializes in providing personalized care to help you beat your cancer. We are pioneers in minimally invasive surgical treatment which includes laparoscopy and robotically assisted gynecologic surgery. In addition, our integrative holistic supportive approach is very unique to help you survive and thrive. Click here to learn more about our patient-first approach.

Colon Cancer Screening:

Colon cancer awareness is more relevant now than ever before. Recent studies show a fivefold increase in people under the age of 50, particularly millennials are being diagnosed with colon cancer. The American Cancer Society has reduced the screening age for colon cancer from age 50 to 45.

The following tests may be used to for colon cancer screening or to find out if the cancer has spread. Tests also may be used to find out if surrounding tissues or organs have been damaged by treatment.

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): The doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for polyps or other problems.
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): This take-home test finds blood in stool.
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This take-home test finds blood proteins in stool.

Endoscopic Tests, which may include:

  • Sigmoidoscopy: A tiny camera on flexible plastic tubing (sigmoidoscope) is inserted into the rectum. This gives the doctor a view of the rectum and lower colon. Tissue or polyps can be biopsied (removed) and looked at under a microscope.
  • Colonoscopy: A longer version of a sigmoidoscope, a colonoscope can look at the entire colon.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An endoscope is inserted into the rectum. A probe at the end bounces high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal organs to make a picture (sonogram). Also called endosonography

Imaging Tests, which may include:

  • CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • PET/CT (positron emission tomography) scan
  • Virtual colonoscopy or CT (computed tomography) colonoscopy
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE): Barium is a chemical that allows the bowel lining to show up on an X-ray. A barium solution is given by enema, and then a series of X-rays are taken.

Our Center for Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Tumors offers an internationally recognized comprehensive program that includes minimally invasive surgery and personalized care. Click here to learn more about colon cancer diagnoses, risk factors, symptoms, stages and treatment options.

Lung Cancer Screening:

In the US, lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined because lung cancer is usually found at an advanced stage that is not curable. Whether you are an active smoker or quit years ago, undergoing a screening can aid in the early detection of lung cancer, when it is most treatable and offers the greatest chance of survival.

CT scan screening for lung cancer is now officially recommended by Medicare, American College of Chest Physicians, American Association of Thoracic Surgery, AMA, and American Cancer Society. A low-dose CT scan is designed to look for signs of lung cancer even before symptoms are present. Because a low-dose CT scan involves a lower amount of radiation exposure than a traditional CT scan, it is the only effective, proven way to screen for lung cancer. The recommended age to get screened is 55-80 years old and it is highly recommended for people who have smoked at least 1 pack per day for 30 years, current smokers, or former smokers who quit smoking within the last 15 years.

Our center for Minimally Invasive Chest Surgery and Thoracic Surgical Oncology is committed to excellence in patient care, teaching, research and community service. Click here to learn more about lung cancer screening and find our screening locations to schedule your appointment today.

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About the Author

Fariba Ahdoot

Fariba Ahdoot is the Marketing Manager, Website and Digital Strategy, at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. She interviews the physicians and researchers to provide useful content for patients, caregivers, and the community.

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