Why are Annual Exams & Routine Screenings Important?
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and we want you to receive the best preventative care possible. Early detection can help prevent serious illness, yet many people still choose to skip their annual exams and routine screenings. Bonnie Ferrara, MD, MPH, Section Chief for Primary Care at Renown Medical Group, further explains the importance of this simple, easy way to stay healthy. Why are annual exams so important? The benefits of early detection and prevention to save lives and reduce the impacts of disease have been proven. These exams are the perfect opportunity to get your health questions answered. “This is your chance to sit down with your provider and talk about your overall health and your family’s health history as well as your concerns for the future,” says Bonnie Ferrara, M.D., family medicine. “It’s the opportunity for your provider to talk with you about your lifestyle, tobacco use, exercise and alcohol use, all of which make a difference in your future longevity.” The annual wellness exam is also an ideal time for most adult patients to discuss health screenings. In addition, these visits are the perfect time to address issues that may not directly relate to a particular medical problem or immediate illness. A good rule of thumb is to schedule these appointments around your birthday each year to make sure you and your provider are both updated on your care. Why would you need an annual exam if you aren’t feeling sick? According to Dr. Ferrara, seeing your care provider when you aren’t sick is one of the best times. “It is better if you try to arrange this visit when you are not feeling ill,” she says. “It is an opportunity to talk about wellness. Not only how to contribute to your wellness but also the changes that you can make that will make huge dividends in the future for your wellness. In addition, it allows us to do some education about what to expect in the coming years as far as your health and lifestyle changes.” What can you expect at an annual exam? Annual exams usually check your: History – lifestyle behaviors, health concerns, vaccination status, family medical history Vitals – blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature General appearance – your care provider can find out a lot about you just by watching and talking to you Dr. Ferrara adds, “If this is a Medicare annual wellness exam, it is an opportunity to talk to your provider about depression and dementia as well as be tested for those.” You can also leverage your annual exam to speak to your provider about managing your chronic health problems. "As a provider, these visits give us the opportunity to hear how the medications and lifestyle changes we have recommended are working and if you are having problems with these, we have the opportunity to make suggestions of how to do things better for the future," Dr. Ferrara.
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Cervical Cancer Screenings Can Reduce Risk of Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and 4,280 women will die from cervical cancer. However, cervical cancer is preventable with regular screening tests and the HPV vaccine. It’s important to note that medical advances have allowed progress in diagnosing and treating cervical cancer. While it used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, the incidence of death has significantly declined. What to Know About the HPV Vaccine HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent cervical cancer and is recommended for all youth starting as early as age 9, or for teens and adults up to age 45 who didn’t start or finish the series. In Nevada, only 50.1% of teens ages 13-17 have been vaccinated for HPV. There are 13 types of HPV, and the vaccine Gardasil 9 protects against 9 of those HPV strains, greatly reducing the incidence of cervical cancer among vaccinated individuals. What to Know About Cervical Cancer Screenings The CDC says the most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. And there are two common tests that can detect early stages of cervical cancer (or precancer) and improve health outcomes. The pap test (or pap smear). This screening looks for precancers. Women should begin getting pap smears when they’re 21. The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. Cervical Cancer Screening Schedule The American Cancer Society offers the following guidelines for screenings: All women should begin cervical cancer screening at 21. Women between 21 and 29 should have a pap test every three years. Beginning at 30, the preferred way to screen is with a pap test combined with an HPV test every five years. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65. A pap test (or pap smear) is performed during a regular screening appointment to look for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not evaluated or appropriately treated. Typically outpatient procedures can reduce the risk of long-term health impacts that prevent pre-cancerous cells from becoming cancer cells. Women over 65 who have had regular screenings in the previous ten years should stop cervical cancer screening as long as they haven’t had any severe precancers found in the last 20 years. How to Get Screened Request an appointment with your primary care physician or OBGYN to schedule a screening.
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Lung Cancer Screening and Early Detection
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. The good news is the five-year survival rate increases dramatically if lung cancer is treated before spreading to other parts of the body. Julie Locken, MD, of Renown Health Imaging, explains more. What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer? As you might expect, most lung cancer symptoms appear in the chest and can affect your breathing. Watch for signs such as: Persistent cough Constant chest pain Shortness of breath Wheezing Bloody or rust-colored phlegm Hoarseness Swelling of the neck Pain or weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand Recurring pneumonia, bronchitis or other lung infections Loss of appetite and loss of weight can also be signs of lung cancer That said, there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, which means getting screened can truly be a lifesaver. If you have a history of smoking, you should get screened as a precaution. What are the risk factors of lung cancer? Around 80% of lung cancer cases stem from a history of smoking tobacco. But there are other known causes, such as secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos and diesel exhaust. It’s important to do what you can to eliminate exposure to all of these to reduce your lung cancer risk. People with an immediate relative – a parent, sibling or child – diagnosed with lung cancer and people between 50 and 80 years old are also at higher risk and may need to consider screening. People who are at the highest risk are those with a history of smoking tobacco, particularly smokers who averaged one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or more, as well as former heavy smokers who quit in the last 15 years.
Ladies! Get Screened for Breast Cancer
Early detection is a significant piece of the breast cancer puzzle. Susan Cox, Renown Health Director of Cancer Operations, discusses what you need to watch for and how the latest technology can help detect potential cancer sooner. When should women start getting breast exams? It depends on risk factors: Average-risk women: Most medical organizations recommend the first mammogram between 40 and 44. Higher-risk women: Dependent on their high risk, which will dictate when they start screening, but generally around the age of 30 and not before 25 years old.
Prevention Against STIs Matters
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 20 million estimated new sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases in the United States each year, with rates continuing to increase. What you may not know is most STIs are preventable. We talked with Renown Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Caroline Barangan, MD to learn more about STIs. How Can You Get an STI? The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says that STIs are acquired through sexual contact. There are bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause an STI which may pass from person to person in blood, semen, vaginal and other bodily fluids. How Do You Know if You Have an STI? STIs can have a range of signs and symptoms such as: Warts, bumps or sores on or near the penis, vagina, mouth or anus Swelling, redness or severe itching near the penis or vagina Discharge from the penis Vaginal bleeding that’s not your period Painful or uncomfortable sex Vaginal discharge that has an unpleasant odor, causes irritation or is a different color or amount than usual Weight loss, diarrhea or night sweats Aches, pains, fever and chills Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) Painful or frequent urination Sore throat if you engage in oral sex It’s important to know that the majority of people who have an STI commonly have no symptoms at all, which is why it’s important to get regularly tested once you have had any sexual activity. Young people less than 25 years of age should be screened on a yearly basis at minimum.
8 Important Health Screenings for Men
Unfortunately, men are less likely to visit their doctor for exams, screenings, and consults than women. So with the help of Bonnie Ferrara, MD of Renown Health, we've put together a list of eight screenings to help men stay on top of their health game. 1. Blood Pressure Tests Ages 20+ Blood Pressure tests measure the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. Biennial (every two years) checks are recommended if you have normal blood pressure or more frequently if you have high blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension). The United States Preventative Services Taskforce cites normal blood pressure below 120 systolic (top number) and 80 diastolic (bottom number). 2. Cholesterol Screening Ages 20+ High levels of cholesterol increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. A simple blood test will help your healthcare provider determine your numbers and if you're at risk. If you have a family history of diabetes or heart disease, you may need yearly screenings. But, again, your doctor can provide the best course of action.
3D vs Whole Breast Ultrasound Which is Right for You
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S. That’s why early detection is so important. Dr. George Krakora, a radiologist with Renown Institute for Cancer, explains what to watch for and how new technology can lead to early detection. Most women know the importance of breast health and staying current with annual breast exams, but may not know that both screening guidelines and technology is evolving. So we asked George Krakora, MD, a radiologist for the Renown Institute for Cancer, what every woman should know about breast cancer detection and which screening method is right for them. First off, when should women start getting breast exams? Generally, women should start getting breast exams using mammography or ultrasound after they turn 40 years old. But we also want women ages 18 to 39 to talk to their primary care provider and ask for what’s called a formal risk assessment to see if screening is needed sooner. And you want to make sure your care provider is giving you a breast exam starting at age 25. It’s also a good idea to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can report any changes to your care provider. What are the risk factors for breast cancer? Are there any preventive steps women can take? There a few risk factors you can’t control, like your age, family history of breast or other cancers, and if you have dense breast tissue. Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older, and most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. Knowing your family history is important because a history of cancer and shared lifestyle can raise your risk. Your breast density can also increase your risk: Women with high breast density are four-to-five times more likely to get breast cancer than women with low breast density. But the good news is there are quite a few things you can do to prevent breast cancer, like not smoking, watching your alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy weight with good diet and exercise. There are a lot of newer screenings out today. What is the difference between 2-D and 3-D mammography? In a 2-D mammogram, the tech takes X-rays of the breast. These pictures can show the radiologist if there are any lumps or tumors you might not be able to feel. In 3-D mammography, the process is largely the same but more X-rays are taken and it takes a few seconds longer for each image. This kind of exam detects 41 percent more cancers and reduces the number of false-positive results given to patients. This improvement in technology is great for both patients and their care providers. 3-D mammography provides better images of the breast, which allow doctors to more clearly diagnose and avoid false positives, especially in women with dense breast tissue. And what about a whole breast ultrasound. What is that? A whole breast ultrasound uses sound waves to detect cancerous tumors in the breast without using any radiation — it’s an ultrasound just like pregnant women get to check up on their baby. And the exam only takes about 20 minutes. We recommend these exams for patients whose mammograms have shown that they have dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue can make it harder for doctors to see any abnormalities, lumps or tumors in a mammogram, so this technology ensures better early detection.
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