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Year three of the pandemic continues and many of us have resumed our pre-pandemic routines, give or take some alterations such as mask wearing and social distancing, which remain critical in the fight against COVID-19.

While day-to-day life looks a little different, it’s important to take care of yourself and revisit items on your to-do list such as regular check-ups and health screenings. 

Being proactive, identifying health risks and following through on treatment plans should be a priority. It’s essential to continue with preventive care, including health screenings, vaccinations, medications and treatments, as recommended by your doctor.

Not sure where to start? Follow these simple steps to determine how to get back on track with your health this year, particularly when it comes to cancer screening and prevention. 

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Cancer prevention starts with living a healthy lifestyle. Exercising daily, consuming a diet full of nutritious foods, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular cancer screenings will give you peace of mind knowing you’ve taken actions to prevent and detect cancer.

While you can’t control every risk factor you have, such as family history, you can make healthy choices when it comes to diet, exercise, sun protection, avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption.

Check cancer screening guidelines

A study published in the June 2021 issue of JAMA Oncology noted sharp declines in screening for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer with an estimated deficit of 9.4 million screenings associated with the pandemic. Postponing doctor visits or treatments may hurt your health in the long run. 

Whether you missed a yearly appointment out of fear of COVID-19 exposure, or you simply pushed it to the bottom of your to-do list, it’s time to reclaim your health.

Houston Methodist suggests the following guidelines for early detection of cancer. Depending on your family history and other risk factors, your doctor may recommend a different screening schedule for you.

Screening Test

Age

Frequency

Cervical cancer screening

Starting at age 21

Every 3-5 years

Colonoscopy

Starting at age 45

Every 10 years

Lung cancer screening

Current or former smokers age 55-74

Every 10 years

Mammogram for women

Talk to your doctor starting at age 40

Every 1-2 years

Prostate cancer screening for men

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons for testing starting at age 45

Ask your doctor

Skin cancer screening

Talk to your doctor starting at age 20 for baseline testing or if there are other risk factors to consider for earlier testing

Every year

Sources: American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists

Schedule a screening 

Delayed cancer screenings may lead to later diagnoses of cancer and additional poor health consequences, because cancer in later stages can be more difficult to treat. Screening is not possible or practical for all cancers, but for those that can be detected with screening, it can be lifesaving.

Connect with your doctor

Remember, early detection often gives you better options to defeat cancer, so talk to your doctor about a screening schedule based on your age, health history and other factors. If you’re unsure if you’re due for a screening, ask your doctor during your next yearly physical or send a message to your health care provider in Houston Methodist MyChart. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can find one by visiting houstonmethodist.org/pcg/central or call 713.394.6724.

This article is part of The Leader Experts series, where companies and institutions pay for editorial content on topics important to the community. If you’d like to be a Leader Expert, contact us at 713-686-8494.

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