How Getting My Regular Screening Saved Me from a Lot of Problems

November 22, 2017

Medical science has proven time and again that when the resources are provided, great progress in the treatment, cure, and prevention of disease can occur.

- Michael J. Fox
 

A medieval torture device...also known as a speculum, used in modern day pap-smears

 

I've never met a woman who has enjoyed getting her pap-smear. Personally, in the list of things that I hate to do with my life, a pap-smear is right near the top, along with killing spiders and visiting the dentist. Even so, I always make sure I get my checkup regularly and this year I am ever thankful that I did.

 

You see, my pap-smear came back abnormal this year. The follow up test showed that I had "high grade" cells in my cervix. These are cells that will most likely turn cancerous at some point and so doctors recommend having them removed as a precaution. I went in to have that procedure, called a LEEP procedure, done this past Friday and thankfully, non of the tissue the doctor removed was cancerous. Unfortunately this means getting 2 pap-smears next year to ensure that all of the affected tissue was removed, but I'd much rather do that than deal with the implications of cancer.

Regular screenings are the best way to stay on top of your health, prevent cancer (like in my example above) or catch cancer early enough to have options for treatments that are more likely to be successful. One of my family members, benefitted from her regular mammogram, which caught an abnormal tumor. Although cancerous, it was small enough that they were able to remove the tumor, keep her breast intact and she only had to undergo radiation.  

 

Unfortunately, not enough of us stay on top of our screenings and that can lead to problems down the road. Skipping a couple of years between screenings can mean the difference between early stage cancer and terminal cancer. It is extremely important not to just go to the doctor when something is wrong, but also to take care of these preventative measures (you should also check with your insurance company and job to see if they have financial perks for getting preventative care, get that extra cash y'all!). 

There are several tests that should be done regularly in adults. Check out this list below for the CDC's recommendations and act accordingly and discuss with your family members to make sure they're up to date as well. 

 

  • Cervical Cancer Screening

    • The Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old

    • Schedule should be discussed with your doctor, but likely not more than annually unless you have a situation like mine above.

  • Breast Cancer Screening

    • Women who are 50 to 74 years old and at average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram every two years.

    • Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. 

  • Colon Cancer Screening

    • Adults age 50 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer.

    • Adults age 76 to 85 should ask their doctor if they should be screened.

  • Lung Cancer Screening 

    • Screening is recommended for people who...have a history of heavy smoking, and

    • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and

    • Are between 55 and 80 years old.

  • Prostate Cancer Screening

    • A debated test, the CDC currently recommends that men should only have it if they are having symptoms. Men should discuss screening with their doctor.

 

In the end, all screening decisions should be discussed with your doctor. There are many things to consider when getting screened for cancers. Tests can come back with false positives which can cause extra stress or unnecessary procedures. Tests may also not be feasible in certain cases where other illness may be present. At the end of the day though, screening can reduce negative outcomes and help us to continue reducing the number of black people dying from cancer each year. 

 

For more information, visit the CDC at:  https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/screening.htm 

 Improving our health literacy so that we all may live healthier, more abundant lives.

 

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