December 19 – PROVO– Research has shown that early detection of some cancers can reduce the risk of individuals developing and dying from cancer. Intermountain Cancer Centers at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and American Fork Hospital host free community screenings for colon, breast and skin cancer throughout the year at their facilities as well as in partnership with other organizations and events in the community.
The goal is to improve access to these tests, particularly to low income, uninsured, and high-risk individuals, and educate the community on the importance of early detection to keep people well.
“Screenings increase the chance of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be curable,” said Wendy A. Breyer, M.D., an oncologist and chair of Intermountain Healthcare’s Cancer Committee in Utah County. “We can identify and remove abnormalities that may become cancerous, thus preventing the growth and spread of the disease early on when treatment options are less invasive, less expensive, and more effective.”
Breast cancer is the number one cancer among women. Even though it is largely preventable with early detection, Utah residents rank among the lowest in the nation for getting screened. Of the women who attended an Intermountain community breast cancer screening in 2013, 64 percent scheduled a follow-up mammogram.
Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common forms of skin cancer, but both have cure rates nearing 95 percent if detected early and treated. Thirty-one percent of individuals screened for skin cancer at an Intermountain screening were directed to follow up with a primary care physician or dermatologist. Among that group, 75 percent were recommended for a biopsy.
Utah County resident Dee Dohner was among those recommended for a biopsy. She was attending a women’s fair at Utah Valley University when she saw an Intermountain booth offering free skin cancer screenings. She had a dry spot on her leg that she hadn’t given much thought to, but decided to get it checked out that day. It was suspicious enough for her to be referred to a physician and she was later diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. “I’m really grateful these screenings are offered,” Dohner said. “I would probably have never made it to the doctor to have the spot checked, and the screening helped detect something I would have written off.”
A risk factor for all skin cancers is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Aggressive sun protection before the age of 18 can reduce non melanoma skin cancer by almost 80 percent. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of sunscreen with an SPF of 30, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade to protect the skin. While the intensity of UV radiation is greatest during summer months, there is still danger in the winter with UV rays reflecting off the snow, which is just as damaging as direct UV radiation, and having a greater intensity at higher elevations. UV radiation increases by 4 percent per 1,000 feet in elevation, so there is 32 percent more UV radiation at 8,000 feet (Snowbird ski resort) than at sea level.
About 8,000 people in Utah are diagnosed with cancer each year. In Utah County, there are 1,000 cancer diagnoses and 300 people die each year. By practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and exercise, and following recommended screening guidelines, individuals can reduce their likelihood of receiving a cancer diagnosis.
- Colon cancer screenings should begin at age 50 and continue through age 75 for both men and women.
- Yearly mammograms are recommended for women starting at age 40 and clinical breast exams beginning at age 20. Self-exams should occur monthly.
- Individuals should regularly check their body for spots—from moles to freckles to age spots—and skin lesions for a change in size, shape or color. Follow up with a dermatologist if any changes are detected.
For more information, please contact Janet Frank at (801) 357-7766, or firstname.lastname@example.org.