Cancer is a diagnosis we would all like to prevent. And, if we can’t prevent the cancer, we most certainly want it to be detectable at an early stage so it can be successfully treated. Fortunately, many of our most common cancers in Franklin County (Lung, Breast in Women, and Colorectal) can be preventable and/or detected early with regular screening increases successful outcomes. Over the next several weeks, look for a variety of articles exploring these cancers, how to reduce risk, as well as overcoming barriers to prevention and/or early detection.
Here are some of the basic prevention and early detection facts we know:
Lung Cancer – Franklin County’s #1 cancer site and #1 cause of cancer death for men and #2 cancer site, but #1 cause of cancer death in women:
- Prevention: Never smoking is the #1 way to prevent lung cancer. Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, quit smoking, and test your home for radon are all additional steps to reducing lung cancer risk. Radon test kits are free through the VT Department of Health and can be accessed by calling 1-800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont) or by emailing [email protected].
- Early Detection: Lung cancer can be detected at an earlier stage for high risk individuals with a lung cancer screening called the Low Dose CT scan. For this high-risk group, this screen has been shown to reduce lung cancer death. This screen is appropriate for people who are: 55-80 years of age, have a 30 pack-year history of smoking (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.), AND are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years. NMC offers this screen. For more information, contact your primary care provider.
Breast Cancer – Franklin County’s #1 cancer site in woman and #2 cause of cancer death for women:
- Prevention: Family risk and age are important risk factors in breast cancer, but there are some behavioral risk factors that individuals can control. Since increased level of alcohol consumption seems to increase risk, it is recommended that women who drink not have more than 1 alcoholic drink per day. Physical activity and obesity seem to be linked to breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women. Although these connections are complex, recommendations include maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, especially through regular physical activity and healthy eating.
- Early Detection: Talk to your provider to determine which screen is appropriate for you. Generally, if you are average risk the recommendation is:
- Annual Mammogram for women ages 45-54
- Choice to begin annual mammogram at age 40
- Mammogram every 2 years for women over 54, or annually by choice
- Continue mammograms as long as you are in good health and have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.
If you are above Average Risk (ex. family history)
- Patients with above average risk should check with their primary care provider for recommendations on earlier or different screening and screening frequency
Colorectal Cancer – Franklin County’s #3 cancer site for both men and #2 cause of cancer death for men and #4 for women:
Prevention & Early Detection: Like other cancers, maintaining a healthy weight and a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are important steps to reducing colorectal cancer risk. Also, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking will help as well. Additionally, tests that look for and remove pre-cancerous polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer. Beginning at age 50, your primary care provider may recommend one of the following tests that can find both pre-cancerous polyps or cancer and cancerous polyps:
- Colonoscopy every 10 year-the best choice since it can prevent cancer by identifying and removing cancerous polyps.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
One of the following tests that may help find an active cancer
- FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood test) or FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) every year
- Stool DNA test every 3 years
Cervical Cancer –
Prevention: It’s somewhat new to think that a vaccine can actually prevent cancer, but the HPV vaccine that is recommended for adolescents around the ages of 11-12 helps prevent infection by several types of HPV including the types of HPV that cause about 90% of all cervical cancers as well as many cancers of the anus, penis, vulva, vagina, mouth, and throat. That’s because HPV infects epithelial cells, which cover the genital track and anus, but also mouth and throat. Women should also have regular Pap tests which can detect pre-cancerous cells. During that exam, an HPV test can also be performed. As with so many other cancers, individuals should not smoke, and if they do, should quit immediately to reduce their risks.
- Age 21-30 Pap every 3 years
- Age 30-65 Pap every 3 years OR pap with HPV co-testing every 5 years.