There are so many more screening tests available now, it can be overwhelming to know which ones to choose. From screening for cervical cancer to mammograms for breast cancer, and what about this at-home stool test for colon cancer screening? One of the founding six naturopathic principles is prevention – but to me, prevention means so much more than screening for disease. Prevention also means that we take care of ourselves wherever we can; meaning where we have control and choice. We have the choice to drink enough water during the day. We have the choice between processed and refined oil or virgin organic oils. We have the choice to apply moisturizers that feel good but are packed full of toxins and harmful chemicals or we can instead choose to invest in the cleaner, pure unadulterated moisturizers that are made from mostly plants from our mother earth.
Preventative medicine means we take action and are not passive about our health. Health is wealth – we have all heard it and we know it. Time with our loved ones is the currency of today.
Today I wanted to review some of the many screening tests that are available and remind you of some of the guidelines for screening for some of the most common diseases of our times.
CANCER – the dreaded but now very familiar thing we are all afraid of. Screening exams save lives – they just do. Early detected lung cancer is curable. Early detected breast cancer is curable. Breast, lung and bronchus, prostate, and colorectal cancers account for almost 50% of all new cancer cases in the United States.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine encourages both males and females to see their primary care physician regularly for check-ups to ensure their health is normal and under control. The following tables outline our screening recommendations. Discuss with a naturopathic doctor which screening schedule is right for you.
Breast Screening – The most common type of cancer on the list is breast cancer, with 300,590 new cases expected in the United States in 2023. There are a number of breast cancer screening tests. No screening test is perfect – but they each have pros and cons.
Mammograms – A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. The doctor reading your mammogram will be looking for different types of breast changes, such as small white spots called calcifications, abnormal areas called masses, and other suspicious findings that could be signs of cancer. If breast tissue is dense (often a sign of estrogen dominance), then the mammogram doesn’t show the tissue as well and is less reliable. In this case, it is often valuable to combine the mammogram with an ultrasound – since U/S shows tissue differently.
Ultrasound – Breast ultrasound uses sound waves and their echoes to make computer pictures of the inside of the breast. It can show certain breast changes, like fluid-filled cysts, that can be harder to see on mammograms.
Thermogram – Thermography (R) produces an infrared image that shows the patterns of heat on or near the surface of the breast which can indicate increased circulation, stagnant lymphatic flow, or inflammation. Though this is a way of looking at the breast tissue it is not as reliable for screening for masses.
MRI – Breast MRIs are not usually used for screening because they are not usually covered by insurance and they can be too sensitive leading to an unnecessary biopsy. If breast cancer has already been diagnosed, a breast MRI is sometimes done to help determine the exact size and location of the cancer, to look for other tumors in the breast, and to check for tumors in the other breast.
Here is a more in-depth review of our screening exams and some new and exciting testing options if you want to be even more proactive.
Natera – Hereditary Cancer Testing
Natera offers hereditary cancer gene testing. Individuals with hereditary cancers have a higher than average chance of developing certain cancers in their lifetime. These individuals are also at risk of developing cancer at a younger age.
How to identify who should get tested:
Natera offers comprehensive testing for 81 of these hereditary cancer genes. Talk with your Living Wellness physician about getting the test – it’s a simple blood test.
The Galleri Cancer Test
What if – we could find cancer early enough to make a difference… The vast majority of cancers show no symptoms until later stages, when treatment options may be limited. Today, many cancers are found too late, when outcomes are often deadly.
A blood test for cancer? Until recently cancer could only be detected with imaging and biopsies. Now there is a simple blood test that detects cancer.
The Galleri test is a multi-cancer early detection test that detects more than 50 types of cancer, many of which are not commonly screened for today, through a simple blood draw. The Galleri test does not diagnose cancer and not all cancers may be detected in the blood.
The Galleri test is recommended for use in adults with an elevated risk for cancer, such as those aged 50 or older. It is intended to be used in addition to and not replace other cancer screening tests your healthcare provider recommends.
The Galleri test looks for signals present in the blood that may be associated with cancer at the time of your blood draw. If a cancer signal is detected, Galleri results can point to where in the body the cancer is coming from to help your healthcare provider guide next steps.
Family history is only one of many risk factors associated with cancer development. These risk factors include eating habits, lifestyle, living or working environments, genetics, and many others.
If you are interested – talk with your Living Wellness physician about getting the Galleri test, it’s a simple blood test.
Colonoscopies and Colorectal Screening
Colon cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages. This is why early, and regular, screening is so important. When caught in its early stages, colon cancer is treatable in about 90% of people.
If symptoms do occur they may include:
- Blood visible in the stool
- A change in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation, or loose stool)
- Feeling that your bowels have not emptied completely
- Rectal bleeding or discomfort
- Unexplained discomfort, pain, or bloating in the abdomen
- Unintentional weight loss (you may notice a drop in your clothing size, needing to tighten your belt, or rings feeling looser on your fingers)
- Fatigue, weakness, or low energy
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider about appropriate testing.
The American Cancer Society recommends those at average risk get screened starting at age 45, since colon cancer is on the rise in people under the age of 50.
Colonoscopy or coloscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. The procedure is done usually under anesthesia by a gastroenterologist.
Colonoscopies can detect conditions like colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulosis. But mainly, doctors are looking for precancerous or cancerous colon polyps, which are growths on the inside of the colon’s lining.
Cologuard is an at-home stool test that finds abnormal DNA and blood in the stool sample indicative of colon cancer.
Cologuard is intended to screen adults 45 years of age and older who are at average risk for colorectal cancer by detecting certain DNA markers and blood in the stool. Do not use this test if you have had adenomas, inflammatory bowel disease and certain hereditary syndromes, or a personal or family history of colorectal cancer.
Cologuard is not a replacement for colonoscopy in high-risk patients. Cologuard performance in adults ages 45-49 is estimated based on a large clinical study of patients 50 and older. Cologuard performance in repeat testing has not been evaluated.
The Cologuard test result should be interpreted with caution. A positive test result does not confirm the presence of cancer. Patients with positive test results should be referred for colonoscopy. A negative test result does not confirm the absence of cancer. Patients with negative test results should discuss with their doctor when they need to be tested again.
Depending on your insurance company and plan, the Cologuard test may be covered by insurance. Colonoscopies are usually done every 5-10 years, whereas the Cologuard should be done every 3 years.
Lastly – who doesn’t want to get a whole-body MRI? 😂 Here in Phoenix, SimonMed is offering a body-wide MRI called the SimonOne Scan.
Advanced Imaging Gives You a Picture of Your Health Before Problems Arise
What would you do if you could understand your health risk factors for cancer and common diseases? simonONE lets you take control of your health by providing MRI body scans in one quick, convenient 30-45 minute session, letting you seek treatment early or reduce your risk – for a longer, happier life.
MRI screenings may detect small cancers allowing you to seek treatment early.
A Gentle Process with Powerful Results
- No radiation
- No contrast dyes
- No fasting or downtime
- Short procedure time; only 30-45 minutes
- Results are read by sub-specialists
- A forward game plan with simonONE for preventative and active treatment
- Compare MRI results each year for an in-depth picture of your body moving forward.
MRI Screening is Perfect for Patients Who:
- Have genetic predispositions
- Have had health issues in the past
- Wish to be proactive with their health
- Want peace of mind
This test is not covered by insurance.
All of these exams are available at Living Wellness Medical Center. Talk with your Living Wellness Physician about which exams are best for you, when to do your exams based on your personal and family history, and which of the advanced testing options you may want to invest in for your peace of mind.