Earlier today, Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with malignant glioma, a type of brain cancer. The Senator from Massachussetts has been one of the leading health care advocates throughout his long career. Even so, Senator Kennedy had to suffer a seizure over the weekend before he was given this grim diagnosis by his doctors. But Senator Kennedy is not alone. According to Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), most Americans do not know when they need to take even the most publicized cancer screenings like mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies.
Here is a guide from the National Cancer Institute to help you with knowing when you should begin screening for these forms of cancer:
Breast Cancer: Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every 1-2 years. Women who are at a higher risk for breast cancer should consult their heath care provider regarding the need for mammograms befor age 40.
Prostate Cancer: Currently, there are two screening tests for prostate cancer available from your health care provider. These tests are: Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA). Every man over 50 should have a DRE and PSA test every year. Men in high-risk groups should begin having their annual exams at 45.
Melanoma: Skin cancer is the most commonly type of cancer in the United States. The number of new cases of skin cancer appears to be increasing each year. But the number of deaths due to skin cancer is fairly small. Often signs of skin cancer are visible to the eye. Doctors recommend that you preform regular self examination.
Brain Tumors: Brain tumors may have a variety of symptoms ranging from headache to stroke. It is sometimes hard to know whether a CT scan or MRI although taking these tests will help determine if a brain tumor is behind the symptoms. The following symptoms immediately raise the question of a brain tumor:
- A new seizure in an adult.
- Gradual loss of movement or sensation in an arm or leg.
- Unsteadiness or imbalance, especially if it is associated with headache.
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes, especially if it is more peripheral vision loss.
- An eating disorder as a child.
- Double vision, especially if it is associated with headache.
- Hearing loss with or without dizziness.
- Speech difficulty of gradual onset.
For more information about cancer prevention, check out the National Cancer Institute.