Q: I have avoided screening tests because I don’t want to know if I have cancer. I had a suspicious PAP smear last year and my doctor wanted me to have another test. I haven’t been back.
A: One of the challenges of breast and cervical cancer screening programs is getting women into the office to be evaluated. The above statement is not uncommon.
The “C” word scares people, men and women. Some choose to do nothing. Suspicious PAP smears, as in the above case, often revert back to normal. You want to know.
Volunteering recently in the free clinic, I examined a serious ulcerated breast lesion. The patient had allowed it to progress for over two years. It was breast cancer and I am hopeful that she will do well with treatment. By walking around with a treatable cancer, she reduces her survival odds significantly.
Periodic screenings for many types of cancer, particularly breast and cervical, can be life saving. These are cancers that when diagnosed early can often be cured. Skin cancers also are very curable. The type of cancer determines the survival rate.
There are many free screening programs available for the uninsured. Your local health department should be able to help if you are not sure who provides these services.
When one discovers a suspicious lesion on self examination, it may not be a cancer at all. Find out what it is. Advances in treatment make most cancers curable or manageable and enable a long and productive quality of life.
Have a question? Email Dr. Marc Yacht at firstname.lastname@example.org.