You probably know that the earlier you find cancer, the better. But do you know which screenings can find cancer early and when you should get those tests?
It’s important to find cancer before you have any symptoms. That’s why your MO HealthNet Managed Care plan, Healthy Blue, suggests regular cancer screenings as part of you and your family’s healthcare and conversations with your providers. These screenings can find and treat changes in your body before they turn into cancer, or before the cancer has a chance to spread.
We checked in with the American Cancer Society and put together this easy-to-use guide for key screenings and when it’s recommended to get them.
Make sure you know how your breasts normally look and feel. That way you can tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes. Doctors use mammograms, or X-rays of the breast, to check for signs of cancer. Here’s when to get regular mammograms.
- Ages 40-44: If you don’t want to wait, you can start yearly mammograms now.
- Ages 45-54: You should get a mammogram every year.
- 55+: Mammograms every year or every 2 years.
Talk to your doctor about the best screening plan for you.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common cause of cervical cancer in women. Screenings can help your doctor tell if you are at risk. Even if you had the vaccine, you should still start regular screenings when you turn 25.
- Ages 25-65: A primary screening every 5 years.
If you can’t get a primary test, get a co-test (HPV test with a Pap test) every 5 years OR a Pap test every 3 years.
- Age 65+: If you had normal test results the last 10 years, you don’t need any more tests.
Remember, everyone’s health history and risk factors are different. Make sure you talk with your doctor about what tests are right for you and how often to have them.
This cancer affects the lining of the uterus. Although there are no screening tests for this type of cancer, the best way to find endometrial cancer when it’s small (at an early stage) is to see a healthcare provider if you have any abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge (that’s getting worse, occurring between periods, or happening after menopause). Early detection improves the chances that the cancer will be treated successfully. If you have gone through menopause, or stopped having your period, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and risks of endometrial cancer. If you notice symptoms like vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not normal, tell your doctor right away. Early detection and reporting are crucial for this type of cancer. Learn more about endometrial cancer symptoms here: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer.html
Colon and Rectal Cancer and Polyps
Regular screenings for colon and rectal cancers are important. These tests can be done with a sensitive test that looks at a person’s stool, or by a visual test that looks for abnormal cells in the colon and rectum. Talk to your provider about which test is right for you, and how often you’ll need to get them.
- Age 45: Start getting screened.
- Ages 46-75: Continue regular screenings as directed by your provider.
- Ages 76-85: Ask your provider if you still need regular tests.
- Age 85+: May no longer need screenings.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for lung cancer and how to quit smoking, vaping, or using chewing tobacco if you still do. It’s important to get a lung cancer screening once a year if you:
- Are ages 50-80 and in fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
- Have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history. (For example, a pack-year is 1 pack of cigarettes per day per year. One pack per day for 20 years or 2 packs per day for 10 years would both be 20 pack-years.)
* As recommended by the USPSTF, AAFP and American College of Chest Physicians
Should you be tested for prostate cancer? That’s a decision that men and their healthcare providers can make together. A prostate cancer screening is called a PSA test. There’s a lot that can go into making an informed decision about whether or not to be tested or treated for prostate cancer. Learn more at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about.html.
- Age 45: Talk to your doctor about PSA testing if you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65.
- Age 50: Talk to your doctor about getting tested.
Things you can do to stay healthy and reduce your risk of cancer:
- Don’t use tobacco, either by smoking, vaping, or chewing. Let your healthcare provider know if you need help quitting.
- Stay at a weight that’s healthy for you.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your use of alcohol. If you do drink, it’s recommended women have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- Know yourself and your family’s health history.
- Get regular check-ups and cancer screenings.
For details about cancer screenings and which ones are covered by Healthy Blue, visit https://www.healthybluemo.com/missouri-medicaid/benefits/medicaid-benefits.html.
To learn more about preventing cancer, visit cancer.org.