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Routine cancer screenings may be lifesavers

A new survey by the Prevent Cancer Foundation reveals that 65% of Americans age 21 and older report they are not up to date on one or more of routine cancer screenings. This news worries physicians like Dr. Jennifer Alderink of Beacon Medical Group La Porte — and for good reason.

“I am saddened to say that I can vividly recall guiding patients through the early days of treatment for colon cancer or breast cancer when they had declined screening in the past,” Dr. Alderink says. “Most of these patients recall that I had discussed the importance of screening with them. However, my job is to partner with and meet patients where they are, whether that’s with prevention at the start or support during or after treatment.”

The bottom line? Don’t wait to get up to date on your cancer screenings. Here are few things to keep in mind:

Talk with your doctor about the screenings you may need: Be sure to share your family’s health history with your doctor. Some cancers run in families, so you may need to be screened earlier and more often. Plus, your doctor knows if screening guidelines have changed. For example, individuals should now be screened for colon cancer starting at age 45 instead of 50.

“You have choices and I will be your guide in choosing the best screening option and timing for you,” Dr. Alderink says. “If I have a patient who declines a legitimate screening option, I gently remind them that I will ‘bug’ them at their next check-up or wellness exam to see if they have had more time to think about their options for prevention of treatable cancer diagnoses.”

Put it in the books — Make cancer screenings a part of your yearly routine: Set time aside each year at the same time — early in the New Year, as your kids go back to school, for example — to make those appointments for screenings you need. Not sure where to start? Ask your primary care physician for help.

Don’t ignore symptoms: Pay attention to changes in your body and how you feel. If you see or feel changes that seem worrisome or out of the ordinary, talk to your doctor.

Don’t wait for symptoms, either: By the time you are having symptoms, a cancer may have already spread. Routine screenings can help detect cancer sooner when it’s more treatable.

“I often have to help patients reframe their thinking about cancer screening,” Dr. Alderink says. “A common response from patients can be, ‘I am healthy, I have no family history, so I don’t think I need this.’“

But when it comes to cancer, knowing about it sooner rather than later is vital.

“It’s essential that patients understand that cancer screening is meant to pick up disease way before symptoms develop so that less aggressive treatment options may be available,” Dr. Alderink explains. “Once someone has concerning symptoms, a diagnostic test like a CT scan or MRI is used.”

Take advantage of online scheduling: Beacon offers online scheduling for screening mammograms for breast cancer, for example.

Put the odds in your favor: Your doctor is an excellent resource for guidance toward a healthier lifestyle to help lower your risk of cancer. From weight loss to quitting smoking and tobacco to managing stress, turn to your doctor for advice and support.

Looking for a primary care provider?
Sometimes people put off routine well-visits and important health screenings simply because the effort to find a healthcare provider seems too hard. Let us help make it a little easier with these three tips:

  1. Look for a provider with expertise that meets your health needs.
  2. Make it easy: Look for an office that is close to home or work.
  3. Think about connections: Building a relationship with your provider is key to long-term health so you’ll want to be comfortable with them as a person.

The primary care providers at Beacon live and work in your community, ready to listen and understand your needs. Get started today and make an appointment with a provider near you.