The Importance of Cancer Screenings

Getting regular cancer screenings is important for detecting the early signs of cancer so you can treat it as soon as possible. Regular screenings may help doctors identify abnormal tissue or precancerous cells, even before you have symptoms.

Some screenings are standard, while others are recommended because of family history or higher risk factors, such as age, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle. For example, annual mammograms are standard for women starting at age 45, but women with a family history of breast cancer should talk with their doctor to consider starting earlier. Your doctor can review the factors affecting your risk and help you determine if and when you should receive screenings that go beyond the standard screening plan.

Advances in Screening Improve Early Detection

The technology and techniques for detecting cancer are continually improving and evolving, leading to better outcomes for cancer patients. Recently, researchers discovered new breast cancer screenings, in combination with associated treatments, had a sizable impact on mortality rates, reducing them by almost 50%. Researchers were able to screen for molecular subtypes of breast cancer, making treatment more effective.

Additionally, scientists discovered evidence that environmental stressors can combine with genetic ancestry, potentially increasing cellular stress and increasing the risk of cancer. This kind of research, like that funded by Padres Pedal the Cause, could lead to a better understanding of how environment and stress impact cancer and, ultimately, to more effective screenings.

Targeted error sequencing, another new method of cancer detection, is being used to identify low levels of the circulating tumor DNA that can be found in patients with early-stage cancers. No false positives were indicated with this study, and this method of detection could allow for targeted, personalized therapies geared toward gene-specific cancers. As each new screening technology advances with continued funding, so does the opportunity to save more lives.

Early Cancer Detection Saves Lives

With advances in research and technology, we’ve seen significant improvements in early cancer detection. Early detection is essential as treatments for early-stage cancer are often less severe and more effective than advanced-stage cancer treatments. Patients diagnosed early will often experience fewer side effects and have an easier time with treatment.  Additionally, early stage treatments may slow down or stop the cancer from spreading.

Statistically speaking, the earlier cancer is detected, the higher the rate of survival. Studies have shown that:

  • When bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than 9 in 10 patients reach the 5 year survival marker
  • When breast cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than 90% of patients reach the 5 year survival marker; by contrast, around 15% survive when diagnosed at the most advanced stage
  • When ovarian cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than 90% of patients reach the 5 year survival marker; by contrast, just 5% survive when diagnosed at the most advanced stage
  • When lung cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than 70% of patients survive for at least one year; by contrast, only around 14% of people survive when diagnosed at the most advanced stage

Early diagnosis can make a huge impact on survival rates and the likelihood of receiving effective and appropriate treatment.

When and Where Should You Get Screened

Routine cancer screenings can help you detect cancer in its earliest stages. The American Cancer Society has developed recommendations for when to get screened for certain types of cancer, though earlier screenings may be necessary depending on your family history and risk factors.

Wondering where to get your cancer screening? San Diego benefits from world-class medical institutions with expertise in cancer prevention. Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health is among the top 50 oncology programs in the nation and the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. For children needing screening, Rady Children’s Hospital is dedicated to pediatric healthcare and pediatric clinical research, working collaboratively with other institutions, including Padres Pedal the Cause beneficiaries. When it’s time for your cancer screening, seek experts for your early cancer detection.

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