Top Five Screenings for Better Health in 2018

The new year is underway, and Saint Joseph Berea, part of KentuckyOne Health, is encouraging community members to kick off the year on a healthy note by resolving to get their recommended health screenings. Top screenings that KentuckyOne Health recommends include breast, prostate, vascular, colon, and biometric screenings.

“The threat of diseases like cancer or stroke is scary, but lives are saved when they’re caught early,” said Elizabeth Coblentz, APRN, KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates. “That’s why health screenings are so important for everyone. As we begin a new year, it’s a fresh start to make your health a priority, and encourage friends and loved ones to do the same.”

Mammography Screening

Breast cancer affects about 1 in 8 women in the United States over the course of their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, but breast cancer death rates have decreased nearly forty percent since 1990 as a result of screenings and better treatment, according to the American College of Radiology.

The American College of Radiology recommends women begin annual mammogram screenings starting at age 40 – even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. For women with a personal or family history of breast cancer, including the BRCA genetic mutation, the risk is elevated and earlier screenings may be recommended.

There are two screening options that may be recommended for breast cancer, including digital mammography and tomosynthesis. Traditional 2D digital mammography can be manipulated by the radiologist to get a better view of shadows, light and contrast. Tomosynthesis, more commonly known as 3D mammography, creates multiple slices of the breast tissue, giving physicians a clear vision of a mass that may be clouded by complex, overlapping breast tissue.

Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer found in men, affecting about one in seven men nationwide. The prostate is a gland that makes up part of the male reproductive system. It is located below the bladder and is about the size of a walnut in healthy, young males. As men age, the prostate can grow, change and develop problems. Prostate cancer occurs when the prostate gland begins to grow irregularly, with cancer cells.

In its early stages, prostate cancer may have no symptoms, and can only be detected by a blood test or physical exam. As the disease develops, the prostate will grow larger, which can cause a weaker flow of urine or difficulty emptying the bladder.

In general, men should be screened by age 50, although this could vary depending on ethnicity, family history and other factors. African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened sooner, typically by age 40 or 45.

There are multiple tests that are used to screen for prostate cancer. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is used to screen for warning signs of prostate cancer. High levels of PSA in the blood could be a sign of prostate cancer. A digital rectal exam can also screen for signs of prostate cancer. During this exam, a physician will feel inside the anus for lumps in the prostate. If a PSA blood test or digital rectal exam shows signs of prostate cancer, a urologist will conduct further testing, such as a prostate ultrasound and/or needle biopsy, to determine if prostate cancer is present.

Vascular Screening
Oftentimes, people do not experience symptoms of strokes, aneurysms and other vascular problems or blockages until it’s too late. Vascular screening offers an easy and painless way to assess your risk.

If you are 50 or older with a history of smoking, high blood pressure or cholesterol, heart disease, stroke or diabetes, or have a family history of cardiovascular disease, a vascular screening could be beneficial. This screening helps detect blood vessel blockages or plaque buildup, which puts a person at risk for these diseases.

A vascular screening consists of three exams that scan the arteries and veins within the body. An abdominal ultrasound checks the abdomen, carotid artery ultrasound checks the arteries in the neck, and ankle-brachial index (ABI) test checks the blood pressure in both of your arms and ankles. Anyone over age 55, or over age 40 with risk factors, should receive a vascular screening. Risk factors include family history of heart disease or stroke, history of smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, high stress levels, inactive lifestyle, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Colon Cancer Screening

In 2013, the latest year data was provided, Kentucky ranked fourth in the nation for colon cancer deaths. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States and the second leading cause of death in men. It is also one of the most preventable cancers when diagnosed early. At least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided if those 50 years or older had regular screening tests, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Colorectal cancer refers to a cancer that starts in either the colon or the rectum. The cancer is often slow-developing, and often begins with a polyp – a growth tissue that starts in the lining.

Risk factors for colon cancer include age, family history, inherited gene mutation, racial and ethnic background, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and other associated syndromes.

Screening for colorectal cancers is widely available. The American Cancer Society currently recommends regular screening for colon cancer beginning at age 50. Earlier and more frequent screening may be recommended for individuals at high risk due to family history of colon cancer or polyps, or other risk factors. African-Americans should begin screenings at age 45.

Colonoscopy, the most common method of screening, allows physicians to identify potentially problem-causing polyps and remove them at the same time. A colonoscopy allows a physician to look at the entirety of the colon using a flexible scope with a camera attached. The exam usually takes 30 to 60 minutes and the patient is sedated. If no abnormalities are found and the individual is not at high risk for cancer, it can be repeated about every 10 years.

Biometric Screenings

Biometric screenings are offered at your primary care provider office, for a quick check of weight, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure.

During a biometric screening, a health care professional will draw blood from the patient, and a brief questionnaire regarding family history and behavior are given, to help provide an assessment on the patient’s health status. Multiple screenings over time will help compare results, or an increase or decrease in risk.

Together, the results will give an indication of a person’s overall health risks. Those with elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity are found to be at risk for cardiovascular disease, while those with elevated glucose are at risk for diabetes.

“Many of these screenings are painless, and all of them can help save your life,” said Coblentz. “This is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Talk to your doctor today about the importance of wellness screenings.”

Screenings can help physicians find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. To schedule a screening or speak to a primary care provider, call 888.570.8091 (Louisville/Surrounding Counties), or 888.570.8092(Lexington and Central/Eastern Counties), or visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/services-screenings for more information.

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