Cancer Survivors Day: Getting Screened Makes a Difference 

By Elaine Herscher, Senior Editor

Every year on June 2, National Cancer Survivors Day is meant not only to celebrate those who survived but also to advocate for more resources, better research, and legislation to improve the quality of life for people who beat the disease. 

Although people diagnosed with cancer are living longer these days, cancer incidence is on the rise. This year new cancer cases in the United States are projected to top two million for the first time ever. 

LifeLong makes it a high priority to screen patients for several cancers and we want to make sure the people taking care of our patients stay healthy, too. Right now is a good time to celebrate a clean bill of health with friends and family who’ve overcome cancer, and it’s also a good time to tune in to important milestones for prevention.  

Breast cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women at average risk start getting mammograms at age 40 and every two years after that until age 74. Women at high risk (with a known gene mutation or first-degree relative who’s been diagnosed or has a gene mutation) get a mammogram and breast MRI every year starting at age 25. It’s best for a woman to discuss her situation with her doctor to determine the safest course for screening. LifeLong patients have access to mammograms through Sutter Health’s mobile vans.  

Cervical cancer. An HPV test checks cells for human papillomavirus that could lead to cervical cancer, and a Pap test or Pap smear collects cells in the cervix looking for changes in cells caused by HPV that could become cancerous. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women get their first Pap test at age 21, with testing every three years. Between ages 30 and 65 the recommendation is an HPV test or HPV/Pap combination test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years. 

Prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that the decision about whether to be screened should be made between men and their doctors. The group recommends that a discussion about screening should take place at: 

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk and expected to live at least 10 more years. 
  • Age 45 for men at high risk. This is particularly important for African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65). 
  • Age 40 for men at higher risk (with more than one first-degree relative who had the disease at an early age).  

The screening tool is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.  

Colon cancer. LifeLong’s primary care providers have a goal of increasing screening for colon (colorectal) cancer. Staff at Howard Daniel and East Oakland health centers have been trained to offer Cologuard home test kits to patients, which are easier than other kits to use and have to be repeatedly only every three years. 

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk start regular screening at age 45. Regular screening should continue through age 75. The home test kits, such as the Cologuard test or what’s known at the Fit test, may be enough. For some people, providers may recommend a colonoscopy, which needs to be repeated every ten years. Always consult with your healthcare provider for what is best for you. 

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