Importance of Prostate Cancer Screenings

What is a Prostate gland?

The prostate is a gland which is part of the male reproductive system. Its job is to produce fluid that is part of the semen. When cells in the prostate begin to grow out of control, cancer develops. The risk for developing prostate cancer increases as men age. To screen for prostate cancer, a blood test called a PSA (prostate specific antigen), and a digital rectal examination may be done.


Who should be screened?

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the group who provides guidelines for health screening services in the U.S., suggest the following for prostate cancer screening:

● Men aged 55-69 years old should make an individual decision about getting PSA screening. They should have this conversation with their healthcare team about the risks and benefits of screening

● Men over the age of 70 should not be routinely screened


The potential risks of screening include getting a false-positive result, which would then lead to unnecessary tests such as imaging studies and biopsies. For some men, screening will find prostate cancer that would otherwise not have caused them any significant health problems. This could then lead to treatment of their cancer that puts them at risk of developing side effects.

Screening Guidelines.

The American Cancer Society suggests a variation to the USPSTF guidelines above. They suggest that the discussion of screening should be held at the following times:

● Age 40 for those at highest risk, meaning men with more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer diagnosed at an early age (younger than age 65)

● Age 45 for men at high risk, those who are African American men, and those with a first degree relative who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than age 65

● Age 50 for men at average risk and who are expected to live at least 10 more


In conclusion, prostate cancer is a serious disease that affects many men. However, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer, including getting screened regularly. You should talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be getting screened for prostate cancer based on your personal risk factors.

Increasing awareness of the importance of early detection and screening can help save the lives of those affected by prostate cancer.

What are the benefits of lung cancer screening?

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that affects the lungs. Cancer most often starts in the cells of the lining of the airways in the lungs. When these cells become abnormal, they grow uncontrollably, and cancer develops. There are two main types of lung cancer- non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Lung cancer screening

Screening tests are done when someone does not have any symptoms of the disease but are looking for it before it becomes symptomatic. There is currently only one screening test in use for lung cancer screening, which is the low dose computed tomography (CT) scan.

Who should be screened?

Lung cancer screening is not recommended for everyone. Those who are at highest risk of developing lung cancer are recommended for screening. This group includes adults aged 50 to 80 years old, who have a 20 pack-year smoking history, and who currently smoke or have quit smoking in the last 15 years.

A pack-year history is a measure of how much someone has smoked over a specific time period. It is calculated by multiplying the number of years someone has smoked by the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day.

Screening is recommended to be done once a year. Once someone has quit smoking for at least 15 years or has developed another health condition that is limiting their life expectancy, screening can be discontinued.

Low-dose CT scan

The screening test used for lung cancer is the low-dose CT scan. There is no pain with this exam, and it only takes a few minutes. During this test, you lie on a table of a CT machine, which is an open, donut-shaped x-ray machine. The table will move you through the machine while low amounts of radiation are used to take pictures of your lungs.

The radiologist will then evaluate the scan, looking for any nodules or areas that look suspicious for lung cancer. Based on the results of the CT, further instructions will be given.

Despite the high rates of lung cancer incidence and mortality, many people are unaware of the symptoms of lung cancer or that it is possible to detect the disease early through screening.  It is important to raise awareness of both the risks and benefits of screening so that people can make informed decisions about whether or not to be screened.

Are you aware of your risk factors for lung cancer?  Have you discussed Screening with your doctor?

Characteristics of breast cancer

Characteristics of breast cancer

When a biopsy is done, and cancer has been confirmed, there are additional things the oncologist needs to know about the cancer. 

Hormone receptor status: This determines if the cancer cells use either estrogen or progesterone (or both) to grow. If there are estrogen receptors on the cancer cells, it is called ER+, and for progesterone, PR+. If there aren’t any, then it is referred to as ER- and PR-. 

HER2 status: The HER2 protein can be used by some cancer cells to grow quickly. If there are high levels of HER2 on the cancer cells, it is called HER2+ breast cancer. If little or no HER2 receptors are seen, then it is HER2-. 

Breast cancer can be described as triple positive (ER+, HR+, HER2+), triple negative (ER-, PR-, HER2-), or can be a combination of positivity or negativity of any of them. 

Ductal vs lobular: This describes the area of the breast where the cancer cells originated, either the milk ducts or the lobules of the breast. 

Additionally, other characteristics such as how quickly the cancer cells are dividing, and how similar (or not) they look to normal cells, helps round out all of the information the oncologist needs to develop the correct treatment plan for each person with breast cancer. 

Are you interested in learning more about Breast Cancer local treatments? Check out our next article on this topic.


Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. The average female will have about a 13% chance of getting breast cancer sometime in her life. That number may be higher for women who are at higher risk due to genetic factors. 

Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for getting breast cancer include:

  • Getting older
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutations such as BRCA
  • Having dense breasts
  • Previously having radiation therapy to the chest
  • Obesity
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy for > 5 years
  • Heavy alcohol use

Diagnostic Imaging

Mammograms are x-rays of the breast. These x-rays can look for changes of the breast that may suggest the development of breast cancer. If something suspicious is seen on a mammogram, the next step is usually a breast ultrasound. 

A breast ultrasound can be done to get a better look at something a mammogram showed, or to get a better look at dense breasts. An ultrasound can also be done during a biopsy to help guide the radiologist on where to get the tissue. 

Breast MRI is another diagnostic tool that can be used to look at the breasts. Sometimes they are used as a screening tool for those at high risk of getting breast cancer. MRI can be used if the mammogram and ultrasound are inconclusive.

CT scans and PET scans can be done after someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer, to see if there has been any spread of cancer outside of the breasts. 


If a mass in the breast is suspicious for cancer, a biopsy will be ordered. This is often done by a surgeon or radiologist, who will get a small sample of the tissue to check for the presence of cancer cells. 

Once a diagnosis is made, and any other additional imaging is done, the cancer team can diagnose the stage of the cancer. 


Breast cancer is staged from 0 to IV, with higher stages meaning the cancer is more advanced. Staging is based on the size of the tumor, the involvement of any nearby lymph nodes, and presence of metastases, or spread to other organs. 


Are you interested in learning more about Breast Cancer Characteristics? Check out our next article on this topic.

Colorectal cancer treatment (CRC)

Treatment is often classified into local therapy or systemic therapy. Local therapy means that it only treats the colon or rectum, and not any other parts of the body. Systemic therapy is treatment that goes around your entire body, treating cancer cells that may be present outside of the colon. A combination of local and systemic therapy may be given for CRC. 

This article will focus on the systemic therapy options for CRC- chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.


Chemotherapy is medication that is used to stop the division of cells, causing cell death. Because cancer cells are abnormal and usually grow out of control, they are killed by chemotherapy. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can cause side effects because healthy cells are affected as well.

Chemotherapy can be given before surgery (called neoadjuvant chemo) or after surgery (adjuvant chemo). 

To treat CRC, a combination of multiple chemotherapy medications are often given. These work against the cancer cells in different ways, so that the cancer is being killed more effectively. The chemotherapy medications used most often to treat CRC include:

  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)

If cancer has spread to other areas of the body, different chemotherapy medications may be given. 

Targeted Therapy

These medications are usually only given if colon cancer is advanced and has spread into other areas of the body. If the cancer has specific genetic mutations, such as mutations in the KRAS or BRAF genes, there may be medications available that target those genes specifically. 


Immunotherapy medications are usually intravenous medications that work by helping the immune system see any CRC cells in the body. This allows the immune system to help fight against cancer. Immunotherapy medications are most often used for advanced CRC.

Colorectal Cancer Staging

Colorectal cancer staging

The stage of the cancer describes how advanced the cancer is, from stage 0 (where it has not grown outside one of the layers of the colon wall) to stage IV (cancer has spread to other areas of the body). The cancer stage can help your oncologist develop the best treatment plan for you. 


Treatment for colorectal cancer 

Treatment is often classified into local therapy or systemic therapy. Local therapy means that it only treats the colon or rectum, and not any other parts of the body. Systemic therapy is treatment that goes around your entire body, treating cancer cells that may be present outside of the colon. A combination of local and systemic therapy may be given for CRC.. 


This article will focus on the local therapy options for Colorectal cancer- surgery and radiation. 


When CRC is at an early stage, surgery is often the choice for treatment. During surgery for CRC, a partial colectomy may be done. This surgery removes the affected part of the colon as well as some of the healthy colon around it. The other parts of the colon are then attached together. If the entire colon is removed, it is called a total colectomy.

When a colectomy is done, lymph nodes in the abdomen near the affected area of the colon are also removed to be tested for the presence of cancer cells. 

Depending upon the type of surgery that’s done, a temporary or permanent colostomy may be needed. This is a procedure that moves part of the colon out to the surface of the abdomen. As the contents of the intestines move through, instead of having a regular bowel movement, it leaves the body through the new abdominal opening, into a bag attached to the outside of the body. 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy beams of x-rays to kill cancer cells. This is a treatment most often used for rectal cancer, and not as often for colon cancer. Sometimes it’s done before surgery, to help shrink the tumor so the surgeon has an easier time removing it. Radiation may also be done after surgery if the surgeon finds that the cancer was really difficult to remove and they aren’t confident that it was all removed. 

When given for rectal cancer, it is often given in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation treatments are typically done Monday through Friday for about 6 weeks.


Are you interested in learning more about colorectal cancer treatments? Check out our next article on this topic.

Colorectal cancer

What is Colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer also referred to as CRC, is cancer that starts somewhere inside the colon or rectum of the digestive system. It is the third most common cancer in the United States for both men and women, and although rates of CRC overall have been decreasing, the rates have actually been going up for younger adults. 

CRC starts off by abnormal cells developing in the colon or rectum. These often start out by becoming polyps, small growths of tissue along the intestinal wall. Not all polyps will become cancer, and if they do, it can take many years for them to develop into cancer. 

Signs and Symptoms

Someone may have colon cancer and not have any signs or symptoms of it being there. This is what makes screening tests so important, so cancer can be caught before it becomes advanced. If someone does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Changes in bowel patterns (such as diarrhea or constipation)
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blood in the stool, or dark or tarry stool
  • Abdominal pain

Diagnostic Tests

If someone is having symptoms that may be concerning for CRC, a stool sample can be obtained to check for blood in the stool that might not be visible to the naked eye. If this test is positive, it’s likely a colonoscopy will be ordered. 

Not only are colonoscopies suggested if blood is present in the stool, but it may also be recommended to be done as a screening tool to detect colon cancer early.  During this procedure, a special camera is inserted into the rectum and moved up into the large intestine to evaluate the lining and look for any abnormalities. If a polyp or any area of abnormality is found, it can be biopsied and tested for cancer cells. A colonoscopy requires a day or so of preparation, where no solid foods are eaten, only clear liquids are to be consumed, and large amounts of laxatives are used to clean out the colon. This prep allows the gastroenterologist performing the procedure to get the best look possible at the intestinal wall. 

Once a diagnosis of CRC is made, the oncologist will likely order additional tests to learn the characteristics of the cancer. This can include molecular testing to see if there are any mutations present, such as BRAF, NRAS, or KRAS. Knowing if these mutations are present can help the oncologist come up with a treatment plan. 

Additional testing, such as CT scans or PET scans may also be done to determine if CRC has spread to any other areas of your body. Once all of the testing is complete, your oncologist can stage the cancer. 


Are you interested in learning more about colorectal cancer staging? Check out our next article on this topic.


Endometrial cancer treatments

Endometrial cancer treatment

The exact treatment prescribed for you will be based on the stage and characteristics of your endometrial cancer. It’s important to talk to your oncology team if you have any specific questions about your particular treatment. 

Treatment is often classified into local therapy or systemic therapy. Local therapy means that it only treats the uterus, and not any other parts of the body. Systemic therapy is treatment that goes around your entire body, treating cancer cells that may be present outside of the uterus. A combination of local and systemic therapy may be given for endometrial cancer. 


During surgery for endometrial cancer, the uterus is removed. This is called a hysterectomy. Often the fallopian tubes and ovaries will be removed as well. Lymph nodes near the uterus may also be removed to evaluate for the presence of cancer cells. 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. It is often used after surgery, to treat the area where the cancer was to make sure any cancer cells left behind don’t have the chance to grow. This is most often done with external beam radiation. 

However, brachytherapy, where seeds of radiation are placed directly into an area to be treated, may be done, especially in the upper part of the vagina, which is closest to the uterus. 


Chemotherapy is medication that is used to stop the division of cells, causing cell death. Because cancer cells are abnormal and usually grow out of control, they are killed by chemotherapy. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can cause side effects because healthy cells are affected as well. 

Chemotherapy is typically used for endometrial cancer when it’s at a later stage. A combination of chemotherapy medications may be used to treat endometrial cancer. Some examples include:

  • Cisplatin
  • Carboplatin
  • Adriamycin
  • Taxotere

Other Treatment Options

When endometrial cancer becomes metastatic and has gone into distant areas of the body, other treatments such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy may be used to treat it. 


Why Black women are more likely to get endometrial cancer?

What is Endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer starts when cells in the lining of the uterus become abnormal. This type of cancer is most often seen in women who are post-menopausal, and is more common in Black women. 

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Bleeding can range from light spotting to heavy bleeding. This can include bleeding between menstrual cycles, or bleeding after menopause, after menstrual cycles have stopped. Other symptoms of endometrial cancer include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Pelvic mass


If someone presents with symptoms concerning for endometrial cancer, testing will likely be done to evaluate the cause. This can start with a pelvic exam, where the practitioner examines the vagina and uterus, looking for signs of a tumor. 

An ultrasound is a commonly ordered test. This can be done externally as well as through the vagina, to fully evaluate the uterus. The ultrasound waves can evaluate the thickness of the uterine lining and measure the size of the uterus and any masses, if present. 

Ultimately a biopsy will need to be done of any abnormal tissue, to test for the presence of cancer cells. A biopsy can be done in a number of ways. One way can be done in the gynecologist office, where a sampling tool is placed into the uterus through the vagina and cervix. The tool then suctions some of the abnormal tissue out to be evaluated for cancer. 

Another way to biopsy the uterine lining is through dilation and curettage (D&C). During this procedure, often done with anesthesia, the cervix is dilated and more uterine lining is scraped away for testing. 

Once a diagnosis of endometrial cancer is made, the cells are further tested for genetic changes that may or may not be present, that can help the oncologist develop a treatment plan. 

Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or PET scans may be done to see if endometrial cancer has spread into lymph nodes or other areas of the body. 

CA-125 is a substance that can be released by endometrial cancers, and may be evaluated through a blood test. This may be part of the workup for endometrial cancer, and may be followed after treatment has been given. An elevated CA-125 is not diagnostic of endometrial cancer on its own, so it is used in combination with imaging studies to evaluate the presence of endometrial cancer. 

Are you interested in learning more about Endometrial cancer treatments? Check out our next article on this topic.


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