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Cancer Prevention & Screenings

Reducing your risk of cancer begins at home with a healthy lifestyle and continues at your provider’s office with other preventive measures, like certain vaccines and cancer screenings. Screenings can not only detect cancer in the earliest stages, when it’s most treatable, but they can also help prevent certain cancers.

Take a cancer risk assessment

Learn whether you’re at higher risk for certain types of cancer and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Breast cancer risk assessment

Colorectal cancer risk assessment 

Lung cancer risk assessment 

Condition-specific screenings

Learn about screenings that can help you identify cancer early, when it’s most treatable.

  • Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women ages 40 and older. Your provider may recommend a different screening schedule if you’re at higher risk for breast cancer. Talk with your provider about the screening schedule that’s right for you.

  • Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with regular screening and is treatable with early detection. The American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk start regular screening at age 45. People at higher risk—such as those who have a close relative who has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer or those who are African American or American Indian—may need to start screening earlier. Screening tests for colorectal cancer include colonoscopies, stool tests and sigmoidoscopies. Talk with your provider about which test is right for you.

  • Of gynecological cancers, only cervical cancer has a screening test. The Pap test improves your chances for prevention or successful treatment by detecting cell changes early. Based on guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, we recommend Pap tests for all women ages 21 to 65.

  • A low-dose CT scan for lung cancer may be recommended for men and women ages 50 to 80 who currently smoke (or quit less than 15 years ago) and were heavy smokers (defined as 20 pack-years, i.e., smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years). A referral from a provider is needed for a lung cancer screening. Ask your primary care provider for more information and a referral.

    Visit lung cancer screening to learn more.

  • We offer screening for prostate cancer for men ages 55 and older and those at high risk, particularly African American men, after a discussion of the risks and benefits with your urologist or primary care provider. Experts may recommend these screening tests either individually or together:

    • Digital rectal exam to physically examine the prostate gland
    • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that measures the level of a specific protein in the blood
  • At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Cancer Care, we offer skin cancer screenings in several clinics. Ask your provider for more information about skin cancer screenings.

  • Talk with your primary care provider about any other cancer-related screenings you may need based on your individual and family health history.

Genetic testing for cancer

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Cancer Care offers hereditary cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling for many cancer syndromes such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (BRCA1 and BRCA2), Lynch syndrome and many other cancers. If you have a strong family history of cancer, genetic testing can help you:

  • Make decisions about treating and managing cancer
  • Understand your and your family members’ risks for cancer
  • Prevent cancer with appropriate screening and prevention methods

Our genetic experts provide genetic testing services, including:

  • Determining your eligibility for genetic testing
  • Assessing your risk for certain types of cancer based on your personal and family medical histories
  • Helping you understand your treatment options for a current cancer diagnosis

Who should have genetic counseling?

You may benefit from meeting with a genetic provider if you or a close family member meets any of the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age (before age 50)
  • A man who was diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Diagnosed with ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer
  • Diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a young age (before age 50)
  • Diagnosed with uterine cancer at a young age (before age 50)
  • Diagnosed with multiple colon polyps over their lifetime
  • Diagnosed with multiple cancer diagnoses over their lifetime (example: personal history of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer)
  • Have multiple close blood relatives with the same type of cancer or related cancers
  • Have a close family member with a cancer-related gene mutation (example: BRCA1 mutation)

If you have concerns about developing cancer because of your family history, talk with your provider. A referral for genetic testing can help clarify whether your family history puts you at risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome.