Three Words to Help Fight Cancer: Know Your Risk!

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Dr. Jeffrey Rose, MD is an experienced oncologist at the Adena Cancer Center. During his 11 years in practice, Dr. Rose has helped his patients manage every type of cancer, with emphasis on lung, breast and colorectal – the three most common cancer types. His key advice to patients, “Screening is of the utmost importance.”

The Factors in Risk

There are several factors which could increase your risk of getting cancer explains Dr. Rose. One is genetic. You could have a higher risk factor if your family has a history of cancer. Another is your health behavior. If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, are overweight, have an unhealthy diet, lack exercise or have possible radon exposure*, you could be at greater risk for cancer. Additionally, if you aren’t getting age appropriate screenings for cancer, you increase your risk of late-stage detection. This could lead to a fatal cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Rose says there are potential warning signs for cancer. A patient should consult their physician if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal lumps or thickening under the skin
  • Sores or cuts that don’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge from any part of the body
  • Blood in urine
  • Change in bowel habits, black, tar-like stools, or bright blood per rectum
  • Persistent cough or hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing or persistent indigestion
  • Change in warts or moles

Screening is Believing

A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. (When a patient does have symptoms, tests are considered diagnostic.) The most common cancers Lung, Breast, Colorectal and Prostate, all have advanced screening tests that are recommended at key target ages. 

Guide for Cancer Screening

Type of Cancer

Age / Parameters for Screening

Lung Cancer

  • Men and women should start screening at 55 (high risk may be recommended to start earlier)
  • Get screenings 55-74
  • Normal screen – every year (covered for people without lung cancer symptoms, 30 pack-year history, currently smoke or have quit in the last 15 years
  • Low dose CT (LDCT) scans

Breast Cancer

  • Women should start screening at 45 years old (sometimes recommended to start at 40)
  • 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year; women 55 and older should get mammograms every two years
  • Get screenings 45-75
  • Men who have a BRCA2 or BRCA1 inherited gene mutation should start screening at age 35
  • Screening options: mammography, or possibly MRI

Colorectal Cancer

  • Men and women should start screening at 50 years old (sometimes recommended to start at 45) 
  • Normal screen – every 10 years; abnormal screen – more often
  • Get screening age 50-75
  • Screening options: colonoscopy or stool test

Prostate Cancer

  • Men at average risk who are expected to live at least 10 more years should start screening at 50 years old (high risk may be recommended to start at 45)
  • PSA of less than 2.5 ng/mL – every two years; PSA level is 2.5 ng/mL or higher – every year
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE) or PSA blood test

The Right Approach

“Advancements in cancer treatment have come a long way in the last five to ten years with new medicines and medical approaches,” explains Dr. Rose. Based on the type and stage of cancer, the Adena Cancer team works together with primary care and other specialists to determine what treatment option, or combination of treatment options might work best for a patient. “Sometimes we can provide surgical options and avoid more intensive treatments like chemotherapy,” says Dr. Rose. In other cases, the team may use chemotherapy before or after surgery to improve outcomes. Treatment is designed around each specific patient. “Our Adena care teams work together. We hold weekly tumor conferences to discuss each patient’s needs and treatment responses.”

Adena offers genetic counselling for patients. If a patient has a certain genetic mutation, we work with genetic teams at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center to help understand, screen, counsel and evaluate the patient and the patient’s family. This helps determine the best pathway to care. 

Through a collaboration with the Columbus Community Clinical Oncology Research Program (NCORP), Adena patients also have potential access to clinical trials for leading-edge cancer treatments.

“The key is age-appropriate screenings for early cancer detection,” says Dr. Rose. “With advanced technologies and medications, cancer patients have more opportunities than ever to beat cancer, but they need to have regular screenings to detect any issues early.”

Patients can also evaluate their potential cancer risk with the Adena online Heath Risk Assessment tools. Knowing your risk, sharing your results with your doctor and regular screening can be some of the best tools to fight cancer. 

* Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. It comes from a combination of elements in the soil which occurs with some frequency in southern Ohio. It is can often emanate from cracks in basement floors and walls.