Take Action for Health

Breast health: Act

Get regular cancer screenings. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about cancer screening, be sure to ask! Don’t wait to become sick. Your health is too important.

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Men need to be able to make an informed decision with their doctor about whether or not being screened for prostate cancer is right for them. Discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of the prostate cancer tests. The American Cancer Society recommends that the discussion about screening should take place at: Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years; age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65); age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).

Get regular cervical cancer screenings.

  • If you are 21-29: You should be screened every three years.
  • If you are 30-65: You should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it is alright to have a Pap test alone every three years.
  • If you are 65 or older: You can stop screening at age 65 if last three Pap tests or last two co-tests (Pap plus HPV) within the previous 10 years were normal. If there is a history of an abnormal Pap test within the past 20 years, discuss continued screening with your doctor
  • If you are under age 28, please keep in mind that you are eligible for the HPV vaccine that prevents HPV infections and HPV-related cancers. The HPV vaccine is given to males and females ages 11-27 years.

If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about cervical cancer screenings, be sure to ask! Don’t wait to become sick. Your health is too important.

Reference: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Get regular mammograms. While there are different guidelines, these are from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) (PDF). If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, you should get a mammogram every 2 years. If you are under 49 or over 75, talk to your doctor about when to get a mammogram. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about a mammogram, ask him or her! Don’t wait to become sick. Your health is too important.

Get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 if you have no personal or family history of abnormal results. Start by talking with your trusted health advisor about your family history of colon and rectal cancers, and find out what type of colon cancer screening is best for you. While a colonoscopy is one of the best ways to detect (and even treat very early) colorectal cancer, other screening options are available including a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years or a fecal occult blood test yearly. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about colorectal cancer screening, be sure to ask! Don’t wait to become sick. Your health is too important. And remember, it is common to feel a bit nervous about the screening but be sure to keep your appointment. Screening is taking action for your health.

Reference: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

There are many online tools to help you find a nearby doctor or clinic that can screen for cancer.

Breast and cervical cancer screenings:

Finding time can be hard. But making time to take care of your health is very important. To get a better idea of time, ask how long it will take when you talk to your doctor and/or make your appointment.

Colonoscopies: If you can choose a day for your exam, pick one that will make it easy for you to be at home the day or evening before the test, when you do the bowel prep. And, because colonoscopy is usually done with drugs that make you sleepy, most people miss work the day of the test.

Getting to your appointment can be hard, but don’t let this stop you. Check your local transit authority for bus or train schedules. Mobile apps like Uber and Lyft may be able to provide ride service for less than a taxi. Or reach out for help! You may be able to get a ride from a friend or family member.

Colorectal screenings: Colorectal screening tests may not cover a colonoscopy. Review your health insurance plan for specific details, including if your doctor is on your insurance company’s list of “in-network” providers. For low-income, uninsured and underinsured, there are other options:

Breast and cervical screening: Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be able to get mammograms and/or cervical cancer screenings for free. You can find out by checking with your health plan or doctor. For low-income, uninsured and underinsured women, there are other options:

Colonoscopies: Most people don’t find colonoscopies painful. You’re given medicine to make you sleep through a colonoscopy, so you don’t feel anything. Still, some people have more discomfort than others. Many people consider the bowel preparation (often called the bowel prep) the worst part of these tests, so be sure to talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.

Mammograms: Mammograms may be uncomfortable for some women for a brief period of time because they press down on the breasts. Patients who are sensitive or worried about pain may want to schedule their mammogram a week after their menstrual period when the breasts are less tender.

Cervical exams: For most women cervical screening is not painful, but it may feel a little uncomfortable. Therefore, if you experience any pain or other problems please do let the doctor or nurse know. You may have some spotting (very light bleeding) for a day after the procedure.

Waiting for cancer screening results can be stressful and weigh heavily on your mind. Talk with your friends, family or doctor if you are very worried. Ask for support.

Colonoscopies: If a small polyp is found during a colonoscopy, the doctor will probably remove it during the test. If the doctor sees a large polyp or anything else abnormal, a biopsy will be done at the time. It’s sent to a lab where it’s checked for cancer or pre-cancer cells.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation and other websites offer helpful tips for what to do when waiting for results.

You can find many free smoking cessation resources on the web like SmokeFree.gov or WebMD's Smoking Cessation Health Center.