A Word From Our Experts

Cancer Rates Decline but the Disease Still Too Common

April is Cancer Control Month; a good time to highlight the many recent advances in the fight against cancer.

Manuj Agarwal, MD
Medical Director, University of Maryland Radiation Oncology Center at Union Hospital

Here’s the good news—cancer rates and deaths have declined for the past two decades, for several reasons. Cancer screenings, such as mammograms, have become more effective in detecting the disease earlier when survival rates are higher. The treatment of cancer through chemotherapy, radiation, and other techniques has also advanced. In addition, thanks to increased awareness about the risk factors that cause cancer, more people are eating healthier, exercising more, smoking less and losing weight.

Even with all these advances, cancer is still the second leading cause of death after heart disease. One in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime.

So, what can you and your loved ones do to help prevent cancer? First, during your yearly physical exam, ask your personal physician to conduct an age-appropriate cancer-related checkup. Also, be sure to discuss what cancer screenings and tests you may need.

Here are the screening guidelines for several of the most common types of cancer.

  • Breast Cancer: Annual mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Starting at age 50, you should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • Prostate Cancer: Starting at age 55, men should discuss screening with a yearly PSA blood test with your physician.
  • Lung Cancer: Starting at age 55, current or former smokers who meet certain criteria should undergo yearly low-dose lung CT.
  • Cervical Cancer: Starting at age 21, women should have a Pap smear every three years.
  • Skin Cancer: Annual total skin examination for those with a history of a lot of sun exposure.