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Don’t Punt on Your Cancer Screenings: Scoring a Touchdown Against Cancer

September 05, 2023

From Friday night lights and college tailgating to NFL game day, for many Texans the honest to goodness most wonderful time of the year is football season. Like with football, when it comes to cancer, a great defense is often the best offense. So, let’s go to the chalkboard for a strategy session and some blocking and tackling advice on a tough opponent – cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 139,100 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Texas in 2023. That’s why cancer screenings are one of the most important “calls” that should be in everyone’s prevention playbook. Taking a proactive approach in detecting and treating cancer early will make you more likely to win the game against this formidable adversary.

Time to Huddle Up for Cancer Screenings

Cancer screenings act as a “defensive line” against the onset and progression of various types of cancer. And when cancer does gain yardage, a diverse clinical team of physicians, advanced practice providers, lab and imaging technicians, pharmacists, nurses, and caregivers will huddle up to map out a proactive, tailored treatment approach to tackle cancer.

Regular screenings enable physicians to identify cancer early, significantly improving the chances of successful treatment and recovery. Avoiding or postponing screenings may push cancer into the “red zone,” making it more challenging to hold the line against its progression.

A Playbook for Cancer Screenings

The importance of early detection through regular screenings cannot be emphasized enough. These three rules should be at the top of your cancer playbook:

  1. Look downfield with regular checkups. Just as football teams have daily practices to improve performance on the field, scheduling regular checkups with a healthcare provider is essential. These visits serve as a fundamental part of early detection for many cancer types, such as gynecologic cancers, where there are no specific, regular screening guidelines.
  2. Play your position by scheduling age-appropriate screenings. Tailoring your playbook involves awareness of age-appropriate screenings and when you should be implementing them. By following the recommended guidelines, individuals increase the chances of detecting cancer early when treatment is most effective. For instance:
    • Women should have a mammogram once a year to detect breast cancer starting at age 40
    • Men should consider regular prostate cancer screenings starting at age 50
    • Guidelines for colorectal cancer suggest men and women age 45 and older with average risk should start screenings
    • Share your family health history with your healthcare team. They can determine whether you should be screened at an earlier age to predict your personal risk of developing certain types of cancer.
  3. Keep your head in the game and don’t ignore symptoms. Football players are aware of their bodies and how they perform. Ignoring signs of an injury can lead to consequences if not addressed. Similarly, dismissing persistent health symptoms that could be precursors of cancer, such as a lump or swelling in your neck, a common sign of thyroid cancer, can be dangerous. Seek medical advice if something seems off or if you exhibit concerning symptoms.

A Preventive Defense

Football teams employ defensive strategies to protect their team against their opponents’ progression. When it comes to prevention, along with screenings, incorporating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help lower cancer risk. Exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can strengthen your defense against cancer. 

Avoid the Delay of Game Penalty: Take Action Now

Managing the clock is critical in football. Timing also matters greatly in fighting cancer with potentially significant health penalties for delays. Procrastinating on screenings can jeopardize the chance of diagnosing cancer early, increasing the risk of complications and reducing likelihood of successful treatment.

Like football, which requires a strategic and proactive approach to win, fighting cancer demands similar dedication and commitment. Early detection through screenings and prevention are the real MVPs and will help you score a victory against cancer.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.