Lately, I’ve been asking my doctor about getting early cancer screenings to check for diseases that I know are prevalent in my family’s lineage.
While I’m only 32 years old, I’ve already been told that I need to start getting checked for carcinomas that have afflicted many members of my family.
You’re probably wondering if you, too, should get early cancer screenings to detect cancers that are common in your genes.
The answer to that question can only come from your doctor, but the bottom line is to make sure that your physician is well aware of your family’s health history so that he or she can help you make the right decisions in terms of what cancer screenings to get and when to get them.
Here are some things to think about…
Are Early Cancer Screenings Right For You?
Remember, many cancer screenings are invasive and/or physically uncomfortable, and all of them cost money.
Unless you are the ‘typical’ age for a certain type of cancer screening, your insurance may not cover those expenses. Therefore, you need to find out if your costs will be covered and determine if you can afford to get the screenings performed.
Usually, you are required to fill out details about your family’s health history information on the forms you sign in your doctor’s office immediately prior to visiting your medical professional. But, it may be in your best interest to bring this topic up yourself anyway while visiting your doctor.
You should have many candid discussions with your doctor about your family’s medical history, and explain that you want to take a proactive approach to avoiding the conditions that may have taken their toll on your loved ones.
It was such discussions that led to my getting a colonoscopy when I was only 31 years old. My mother and maternal grandfather had both died of colon cancer, and all of the uncles on my mom’s side had also had intestinal polyps removed, with at least one of my uncles already having polyps removed during his 30s.
While the colonoscopy prep was nothing I’d consider particularly fun, I am glad to have already gotten a clean baseline screening under my belt (no pun intended!), and will continue to have colon cancer screenings performed when necessary so that I may hopefully avoid the fate that befell my poor mother and grandfather.
What Types Of Cancer Screenings Should You Consider?
I have learned from my mother’s oncologists, as well as my own doctor, that there are a few common hereditary cancers that are often clustered as a group within families.
These cancers include:
- Colon cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
So, if your family has any incidences of even just one of these types of cancers, you may be at increased risk for any of the other cancers in that group — with the exception (as you would guess) of ovarian cancer if you are male or prostate cancer if you are female. Don’t forget, breast cancer occurs in both men and women, and you should ask about getting a mammogram regardless of your sex if you are deemed to be at risk.
There may be other cancers that you are at heightened risk for, though you will need to ask your doctor about which ones specifically you need to be most vigilant about detecting. Your doctor may even recommend a genetic test to better determine your cancer risks.
You should also ask your doctor which cancer screenings you need to get and what ages you should begin getting them.
If you are unsure about the risks of certain cancer screenings or need help with any other concerns you may have, you could always join cancer support groups and ask for advice from other members and professionals who can help answer any questions you may have.
Remember to let your doctor be the one who ultimately helps guide you to your medical decisions.