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February is National Cancer Prevention Month: Stay Ahead of Cancer


Early detection of cancer can lead to better outcomes. February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and as a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, I’m sharing this vital information to help you and your loved ones stay ahead of cancer.


More than 1.9 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer and nearly 610,000 will die from these diseases in 2023. In Maryland alone, an estimated 35,200 will be diagnosed and 11,090 will die of cancer this year. The good news is people are living longer with cancer diagnoses thanks in part to early detection.


When cancer is detected early, successful treatment is more likely. The five-year survival rate for many cancers is almost 90% when cancer is found in its early stages. Certain routine screenings can detect cancer before symptoms even begin. If you have a family or personal history of cancer or other diseases, talk to your health care provider about whether you should begin screening earlier. Early detection saves lives, and it starts with you. Read on to learn more about recommended routine cancer screenings.


Breast cancer screening

Beginning at age 25, talk with your health care provider at least once every three years for a risk assessment, risk reduction counseling and a clinical breast exam. At age 40, begin annual 2D or 3D screening mammograms. Talk to your health care provider about which mammogram is recommended for you. When you reach menopause, talk to your provider about potential risks associated with hormone replacement therapy.


Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer screening is recommended beginning at age 21 with a Pap test every 3 years. Between the ages of 30 to 65, you can choose to have a Pap test alone every 3 years, a human papillomavirus (HPV) test alone every 5 years, or an HPV test with a Pap test (co-testing) every 5 years. After age 65, talk with your provider about whether you should continue screening. You should get screened even if you received the HPV vaccine, which protects against the virus that causes most cervical cancer cases. The vaccine is recommended for young people ages 9-12 with a catch-up vaccine recommended for teens and young adults up to age 26.


Colorectal cancer screening

Begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45 if you are at average risk. Options for screening include a colonoscopy every 10 years, virtual colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, and at-home stool tests every 1 to 3 years. Screening should continue until at least age 75, then talk to your provider about whether you should continue. Colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy can find polyps, or growths, that can be removed before they become cancer.


High-risk lung cancer screening

If you’re a heavy smoker or a former heavy smoker, get screened for lung cancer starting at age 50 through age 80. The USPSTF recommends annual screening for people who have 20 pack-year histories (a “pack year” is the equivalent of smoking one pack per day for a year) of smoking and who either still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening with low-dose spiral CT significantly reduces lung cancer deaths, so talk to your health care provider about screening if you think you might be eligible.


These are just a start to the cancer screenings you may need. Talk to your health care provider about additional screenings, including skin checks, prostate and oral cancer screenings. To find out what screenings you need, visit www.preventcancer.org/screening.


Nicole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.

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