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Fight the Fear

Publication: Healthy Magazine, McAllen

For adults, it’s easy to comfort children about the things they fear – the dark, things that go bump in the night and other frightful things. But remembering when we were growing up, we had a different perspective. And now as adults, we find other things that can be scary.

It’s human nature to fear the unknown but as we grow in knowledge and experience, the unknown becomes known, less dangerous and less intimidating.

When confronting cancer screening tests, many of my patients have similar fears. The results are unknown and there is a possibility those results could lead to some difficult experiences. Rather than face that possibility, some patients skip their screenings. Unfortunately, the old adage is wrong: no news is NOT always good news.

Too many times my colleagues and I have seen patients with advanced stage cancer that could have been detected earlier. Why didn’t they get screened, which might have allowed doctors to detect the cancer at a more treatable stage? Often, the answer has two common themes: fear of the test and fear of the results.

Some cancer screenings are unpleasant. I have yet to meet a patient who enjoyed the preparation for a colonoscopy (although most have said it was not as bad as they had expected). Even with that being said, a little discomfort is well worth the potential benefits: determining you have no cancer, finding you need to do something extra to prevent cancer (such as removing pre-cancerous colon polyps) or finding you have an early-stage cancer, rather than an advanced stage cancer.

No one wants to find out they have cancer but discovering it at an early stage is always better. Early detection often makes a significant difference in quality of life during treatment. Patients are often able to receive a less intensive treatment with more treatment options. While exact rates vary by specific cancer types, cancers detected at an early stage consistently have better survival rates.

Some may fear the out-of-pocket costs associated with screenings. Most common cancer screenings are now covered by more health insurance plans or Medicare. In addition, free screening events and screening assistance are available in many communities.

You should discuss with your primary care physician which screenings are appropriate for you. Your doctor can outline the benefits, risks and appropriate schedule for cancer screenings, perform many screening tests and provide referrals for the rest.

I encourage all of my patients to fight the fear. Cancer screenings are an investment in your health and a way to take the reins on your healthcare. The more you know – including your family history, what is normal for your body and screening results – the more control you have over your health, which helps remove the fear. For more on cancer screenings and early detection, visit a href="/">www.TexasOncology.com.

By Dr. Guillermo Lazo, Texas Oncology–McAllen

This story originally appeared in Healthy Magazine.

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