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HMSA Member News > Member NewsSummer 2010 IS Magazine

The Advantages of Cancer Screenings

Give yourself a gift: Stay up to date on tests, check-ups and screenings.

By Myra Williams, Vice President, Health Services Division, HMSA

About 6,500 people in Hawai‘i were diagnosed with cancer in 2009, with nearly 1.5 million new cases reported nationally. These are disturbing statistics. But what’s even more troubling is that these numbers represent people who have been diagnosed with cancer; there are likely thousands of others who have cancer but don’t know it.

Cancer screenings are so important to our health, because early detection increases your chances for survival. When cancer is found in its early stages, treatment and recovery times are often much shorter. No one wants to be diagnosed with cancer, but facing the issue early could help save your life. This is especially important for people who have a family history of cancer or associated health risks.

There’s also the benefit of peace of mind. It’s easy to detect health issues we’re having on our body’s surface, but it’s hard to tell what’s going on inside. Cancer screenings give you knowledge about yourself, and to me that’s very gratifying.

So every year around the holidays, I give myself a little gift. I make all of my routine doctor appointments, review my health records, and make sure that I’m up to date on all recommended tests and screenings. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do all year because the gift of health is the best gift of all.

I also enjoy having routine screenings because it challenges me to be responsible. I know that when I go to the doctor’s office, I’ll have to step on that scale and have my blood pressure taken. I like to think of it as a game, where my goal is to beat my best score. This helps me focus on being healthy throughout the year. I like having the opportunity to talk to my doctor and learn more about how I am doing and what I need to do to keep myself healthy.

An added bonus is that most cancer screenings are covered benefits of most HMSA health plans. For a small (or sometimes no) copayment, I can enjoy peace of mind, and challenge myself to stay healthy. To me, that’s priceless.

Get screened for cancer and help beat the troubling cancer statistics. Below is a list of recommended screenings. Talk to your doctor about the best options for you.

  • Breast Cancer: Women over age 40 should talk to their doctor and make an informed decision about whether mammography is right for them, based on their family history, general health and personal values. After age 50, it is recommended that all women have a mammogram every two years.
  • Cervical Cancer: Women should have a Pap test every one to three years starting at age 21 or within three years of the onset of sexual activity. Women should have an annual pelvic exam starting at age 21 or once they are sexually active.
  • Prostate Cancer: Men should discuss the need for a digital rectal exam or prostate-specific antigen test with their doctor.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Women and men should be screened starting at age 50. There are three methods. A fecal occult blood test should be performed annually. A flexible sigmoidoscopy should be performed every five years. A colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years.
  • Skin Cancer: Women and men should have routine full-body skin checks by their doctor starting at age 20 as recommended. Women and men should perform a monthly self-exam for moles or other skin growths.
 
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