The COVID-19 pandemic caused the disruption of life as we know it, even some health care was put on hold.

Now, more than a year later, health care providers are concerned with the noticeable drop in the number of people seeking cancer screenings. Dr. Darla Liles, chair of Vidant’s Commission on Cancer Committee joined WNCT to discuss this challenge.

“We want to find cancers in their earliest stage,” Dr. Liles said. “They’re obviously much more curable when they’re stage 1 or stage 2. If we are not screening appropriately, we may end up with cancers that we find more in later stages where they’re not as curable.”

A patient speaks with a doctor during a cancer screening

When and where can I get screened?

Regular cancer screenings are available at Vidant Health and Power Up events occur frequently as a way for community members to get screened close to home.

Below is a list of recommended cancer screenings for adult men and women. Use this as a guide, remembering that your health needs are as unique as you are. It’s important to talk with your doctor about how your family history, personal history and lifestyle could affect when you need certain screenings or tests.

Male Adults

All ages:

  • Skin cancer: Keep watch on moles and talk about changes with you doctor

After 45:

  • Colorectal cancer: Starting at age 45, talk with your doctor about different screening options
  • Lung cancer: If you are a current of former smoker and at least 50 years old, there are lung cancer screenings available to you
  • Prostate cancer: When you turn 45, talk to your doctor about the need for PSA testing for prostate health.

Female Adults

All ages:

  • Breast cancer: Know how your breasts normally look and feel, and talk about changes with your doctor.
  • Skin cancer: Keep watch on moles, and talk about changes with your doctor.

Age 19-39

  • Cervical cancer: Starting at age 21, you may need regular pap smears. At age 30, continue regular pap smears, and talk about HPV testing with your doctor.

Age 40-64

  • Breast cancer: Begin talking about options for regular mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Cervical cancer: Continue regular pap smears as recommended by your provider.
  • Colorectal cancer: Starting at age 45, talk with your doctor about different screening options.
  • Lung cancer: If you are a current or former smoker and at least 50 years old, there are lung cancer screenings available for you.

Tillis announcement serves as reminder

Recently, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announced he is seeking treatment for prostate cancer. Doctors are hopeful this high-profile case will serve as a reminder that otherwise healthy individuals still need to keep up with regular screening so that it can be caught early.

“I see a lot of patients who are around Sen. Tillis’ age, who are in general in very good health and have taken care of their bodies and they are not even thinking about having prostate cancer. It’s not on their mind because they are overall doing well,” said Dr. M. Sean Peach, director of brachytherapy services at Vidant Beaufort.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society, with about one in eight men being diagnosed in their lifetime.

Stay safe in the sun this summer

With the days growing longer and warmer, many people are outside enjoying the sunshine more often. However, prolonged exposure to unprotected skin comes with risks. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. It is important to know how to protect your skin as well as the risks, prevention and treatments for skin cancer.

Because exposure to UV rays is one of the most common risk factors for skin cancer, the most important way to lower your risk of skin cancers is to limit your exposure to these rays. Look for ways to reduce sun exposure by using and diligently reapplying sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30), wearing protective clothing including hats and sunglasses and limiting sun exposure when the rays of the sun are strongest between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, avoid tanning lamps which give off UV rays and damage the skin.

Dr. Nasreen Vohra is a surgical oncologist and associate professor of surgery at ECU/Vidant Health.

“Remembering the A, B, C, D, E rule for skin cancer, particularly melanoma, is an important step in a skin self-exam,” Dr. Vohra said. “For A, look for asymmetrical shapes to skin lesions. For B, check the borders of these lesions; irregular borders are more concerning. C is for color, take notice if the lesion is unevenly pigmented or if there are changes in color. D is for the diameter of the lesion, and if it is greater than 6 millimeters, or the size of a pencil eraser, this could be concerning. Finally, E is for evolving, so pay attention if the lesion is changing in any noticeable way.”

For more information about the risks and prevention of skin cancer, or if you do not have a primary care provider, contact the Prevention Clinic at Vidant Cancer Care 816-RISK (7475).

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