Cancer is one of the most feared medical problems we face. Fortunately, many cancers can be successfully treated or avoided entirely through early screening. At GulfView Medical Institute, we offer the following services aimed at early detection of cancerous and precancerous conditions.
- Pap tests look for cellular changes of the uterine cervix. Abnormal cells can be viewed under the microscope and if appropriate, the samples can be tested for the Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of warts and cervical cancers. Individuals (men or women) infected with the virus, which can be spread through sexual contact, are often unaware of the infection since many patients have no outward sign or symptom. Women should get pap tests annually, starting at age 18 or at first sexual activity. Some women can have pap tests less often, if certain criteria are met, at the recommendation of your doctor.
- PSA blood testing, when used as a supplement to a physician's examination, looks for elevations in a blood chemical unique to the prostate gland. When levels are abnormal for age, or change too rapidly, there is the suggestion of prostate cancer. Caucasian men age 50 and older are advised to have this blood test annually, accompanied by a proper physical examination of the prostate. Men who are African-American, Hispanic or Asian should begin screening at age 40. If there is a family history of prostate cancer, screening should begin 10 years prior to the relative's age at diagnosis.
- Breast examinations are an invaluable tool in detecting changes to breast tissue that may be worrisome for cancer. Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but those that are can often be detected during a careful exam. Women should get into the habit of performing monthly breast examinations themselves at home and have a physician's examination annually. Your doctor can teach you the proper technique and recommend the best time each month for you to carry out your examination (usually just after your menstruation). Your doctor will also discuss mammograms with you and the frequency with which these should be repeated. As a rule, women with a family history of breast cancer should begin screening at least 10 years prior to the relative's age at diagnosis.
- Testicular examinations are also advised for all men. The technique for monthly self-examinations at home can be learned quickly and your doctor will be happy to advise you. Even teenagers should learn the examination as testicular cancer is often seen in men as early as late teens and early 20's, as well as later in life. Like breast exams, an annual examination by your doctor is recommended. Any lumps you find should be brought to your doctor's attention immediately.
- Mouth and skin cancers are becoming increasingly more prevalent as a result of smoking, chewing tobacco, sunbathing and the use of tanning beds. Ask your doctor to examine you for these problems at least once a year and monitor yourself for changes to moles, new sores on the tongue or elsewhere inside the mouth. Anything you observe to be different should be promptly examined.