Kristina D. Transue RN, MSN
Family Medicine Clinic
Eisenhower Army Medical Center

FORT GORDON, Ga. -- It's winter. It's February. Cabin Fever is nobody's friend. That make this a good time to make decisions and take actions that help us live our best lives. This year consider scheduling your preventative screening tests with your primary care provider. Some of the most common ones are:

Well woman exams
A pap smear is helpful in detecting cervical cancer in its earliest stages. All women between the ages of 21 and 65 should be screened regularly, although the highest rate of cervical cancer diagnosis occurs between the ages of 35--44. Routine screening is conducted every three years. Beginning at age 30, a pap test may be combined with a test for the Human Papilloma Virus. This is called co-testing and, if both PAP and HPV are negative, repeat testing will be done in five years.

Early routine pap smears detect cancer cells while they are still confined to the cervix. This early detection can yield a five year survival rate of up to 93 percent. Undetected cervical cancer which grows and spreads decreases that survival rate of about 16 percent for the most invasive cancers. Early detection and treatment is the key. (Source: cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.)

Colorectal screening
Patients aged 50-75 should undergo routine colorectal cancer screening. Traditionally, a colonoscopy is the procedure of choice. During the procedure the gastroenterologist will look at the colon and remove any polyps that are seen before they develop into cancer. In this way the test is both a screening and a preventative procedure. A colonoscopy is good for 10 years.

Another colorectal screening is an at-home colon cancer screening test that is prescribed by a physician. If you decide to proceed with this test, a kit will be sent to your home. You produce the specimen in a specially designed container, follow some simple instructions provided, and then commercial delivery service will come pick it up and send it back to the company for analysis. The company looks for DNA within your stool that would indicate the presence of cancer. It is valid for three years. If your test does come back suspicious for the presence of cancer, it would then be recommended that you have a colonoscopy.

Your primary care provider can discuss which option is best for you based on your current health status. As with all cancers, early detection is the key to optimal survival rates.

Mammogram
Female patients should undergo routine breast cancer screenings. As with all cancers, early detection is the key. Women aged 40 and above should discuss their risk with their provider and consider routine annual screenings. At age 50 and beyond, yearly mammograms are encouraged. This test can be ordered by your provider or a member of the nursing staff, and will be scheduled with Radiology by calling 706-787-2171.

If you are not due for any of the above tests, but realize it has been a while since you have had a checkup, call Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Central Appointments at 706-787-7300 and get an appointment scheduled on that rapidly filling calendar to come discuss your current health status with your provider.