by Dr. Kathryne Buege
For me, this year started off with a death in my family. She referred to herself as "Favorite Aunt Nancy" -- and she was. She was also a loving wife, mother, sister and dedicated RN who bravely battled breast cancer for 2 years.
A year ago, we lost another aunt to ovarian cancer. Both aunts were in their 50s. We also have an employee within the MASH family battling cancer.
My Aunt Nancy never had a screening test for breast cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer after going to the hospital with dehydration and nausea. My other aunt suffered with bloating and heartburn for years. She was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer after going to the hospital with fluid in her lung.
Given their struggles and accomplishments, it made me that everyone should stop now and then to consider the question:
"What is your legacy?"
While you’re thinking, I’d like to remind everyone of the importance of preventive medicine.
In January, many people commit to resolutions - spending less money, losing a few pounds, etc. Why not add these key screening exams to your list and resolve to contact your primary care physician in this New Year.
First of all, screening means checking your body for cancer before you have symptoms. The CDC supports screening for breast, cervical and colorectal (colon) cancers as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
A mammogram is the best method to detect breast cancer early. A clinical breast exam and self-exam is also used for screening. If you are 50-74 years old, be sure to have a mammogram every 2 years. If you are 40-49, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to screen.
Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent. Pap tests (or Pap smear) look for pre-cancers or early cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer. Start your Pap tests at age 21 and get regular screenings through age 65.
Regular screenings should begin at age 50, using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. This should continue through age 75.
Screening for lung, ovarian, and prostate and skin cancers has NOT been shown to reduce deaths from those cancers. Therefore, more information is needed before supporting use of screening tests for these cancers.
Here is my point - be proactive and take care of yourself. Call your doctor and make sure you are up to date on your screening tests for cancer. Ignorance is not bliss. Make time for not just you, but for your family and friends!
Early diagnosis and detection is instrumental in facilitating recovery.
What is my legacy? Still working on it! But I am hopeful I have years to fine-tune it. One thing I know, I am contacting my doctor to schedule my screening exams this year.
Happy New Year, and rest in peace Aunt Nancy.