Memorial Regional Health: Preventative screening crucial for protecting against cervical, prostate cancer — healthy lifestyle choices also play a major role
Editor’s note: The following article is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health.
For the best prevention methods against cervical and prostate cancers, doctors recommend making healthy lifestyle choices, as well as getting the appropriate health checkups throughout your lifetime.
It might seem like a broken record to suggest that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of these types of cancers, but it turns out that a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent all sorts of medical conditions.
So, what does a “healthy lifestyle” entail? For starters, it includes a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and sleep, and avoiding things like heavy drinking, nicotine, and substance abuse. The Mayo Clinic, in its recommendations for prostate cancer prevention, defines a healthy diet as one that is low in fat, contains minimal meat and dairy products, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fish.
The American Cancer Society reports that cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife, mostly in women younger than 50. Hispanic and African-American women have higher rates of HPV-associated cervical cancer than white and non-Hispanic women, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
For men, prostate cancer risk increases with age and is most common in North America, Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. Like cervical cancer, genetics play a role in overall risk, and prostate cancer also affects more African-Americans than other races. The American Cancer Society reports that African-American men are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, behind skin cancer, and it’s the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer.
In addition to HPV, other factors for cervical cancer that put women at higher risk include smoking, a weakened immune system, chlamydia infection, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, obesity, long-term use of birth control pills, having three or more full-term pregnancies, and other factors. Family history is also believed to be a cause, with researchers suspecting that some women inherit a condition that makes them less able to fight off HPV infection than others.
In men, diets high in red meat and dairy products tend to lead to higher risk for prostate cancer, but other factors are less known. Research about whether vasectomies, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, smoking, chemical exposures, and other factors suggest inconclusive data about their impacts on overall prostate cancer risks.
Screenings and early detection
Thanks to advances in medicine, including regular gynecological screenings for women, the rate of cervical cancer death in the United States has decreased by more than 50 percent during the past 40 years.
While one in 41 American men will die of prostate cancer, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
For women who choose to skip regular exams, which include Pap smears or Pap tests, that decision could prevent early-stage, life-saving discoveries. The medical industry widely attributes the steep decline in cervical cancer deaths in the United States to the Pap test.
“The Pap (test) has been such a life changing test for women,” said Dr. Scott Ellis, an OB/GYN at Memorial Regional Health in Craig. “But we tend to fall asleep sometimes and forget to do our regular health screenings.”
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is sexually transmitted. In fact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, affecting about 79 million Americans, according to the CDC.
In 2013, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed screening guidelines for cervical cancer. It now recommends screening begin at age 21, and that women age 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every three years. Women age 30 to 65 should have a Pap test every five years.
Ellis doesn’t agree with the new regulations for screening and still recommends women be screened annually.
“It used to be age 18 and every year after, or as soon as a woman became sexually active,” he said. “I think a woman should have a Pap every year, so we can find abnormalities early and treat them in their earliest stage.”
For men, the American Cancer Society recommends talking with your health care provider about certain risk factors. Generally, men who are at average risk should get a screening at age 50. Men with a high risk should seek testing at age 45, and men with a very high risk — someone with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age — should seek testing at age 40.
Prostate cancer screening begins with a blood test that measures the level of prostate specific antigen in the blood. If the test is abnormal, a biopsy would be done to determine if cancer is present.
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