More than 6,500 people in Hawai‘i were diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and
more than 2,000 died from the disease. Thousands more are likely to have cancer
but don’t know it. Since there are often no symptoms or a guaranteed way to
prevent or cure the disease, early detection is the best protection. When cancer
is found in its early stages, treatment and recovery times are often much shorter.
That’s why it’s so important to get screened regularly for cancer.
Below is a list of common cancers and recommended screenings. Talk to your primary
care provider about the appropriate screenings for you.
Breast Cancer is the second most common cancer in women in Hawai‘i
and the nation. About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer
during their lives, approximately 210,000 each year. Seventy percent of these women
have no known risk factors for it.
A mammogram is a breast X-ray that checks for cancer. Mammograms can detect cancer
several years before any visible symptoms appear.
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 and general
health. After age 50, it is recommended that all women have a mammogram every two
Cervical Cancer often has no visible symptoms, but if it’s
detected early, it is one of the easiest female cancers to treat.
A Pap test (smear), which is performed by swabbing the cervix, detects changes in
the cells that may lead to cervical cancer. Since Pap tests were first introduced
in the 1940s, cervical cancer death rates have declined by more than half.
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, depending on their doctor’s recommendation.
Women should also have an annual pelvic exam starting at age 21 or once they are
Colorectal Cancer is the second-leading cancer-killer in the nation,
according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). And because it often takes 10 to
15 years to develop, it’s also one of the easiest to detect. Women and men
should have routine colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50 or as recommended
by their doctor.
There are three colorectal cancer screening methods. A fecal occult blood test checks
for blood in the stool. It should be performed every year. During a flexible sigmoidoscopy,
a doctor inserts a short, thin, lighted tube into the rectum to check for polyps
or changes in the rectum and lower colon. It should be performed every five years.
A colonoscopy is similar to a sigmoidoscopy, except a longer tube checks the entire
colon. It’s typically performed every 10 years.
In addition to cancer screenings, it’s important to take care of yourself
to help prevent cancer. Nearly two-thirds of all cancers are related to poor lifestyle
habits, according to the ACS. To improve your chances of staying cancer-free, eat
a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and low in salt, maintain a normal
weight, exercise often, limit sun exposure, and avoid tobacco products.
And if you have a close relative who has had cancer, such as a parent, sibling,
or child, or if you have multiple relatives who have had cancer (including grandparents,
aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren), you may be at
higher risk for certain types of cancer. Make sure your primary care provider is
aware of your family history.
No one wants to learn that they have cancer, but ignoring the problem won’t
make it go away. Early detection through preventive cancer screenings can help save
lives. The sooner you stop cancer in its tracks, the better your chances of a full
Most cancer screenings are covered benefits of most HMSA health plans. If you are
within the recommended age range, talk to your doctor about being screened.