Some cancers are more treatable than others, and in most cases, the earlier the cancer is found before it is metastasizes, the higher rate of survival.

Thanks to aggressive campaigns during the month of October to “Think Pink,” and encouraging women to get screened for breast cancer, the survival rate of those diagnosed with the disease has improved significantly over the past quarter-century.


The American Cancer Society reported in 2017 that the number of women who died from breast cancer dropped about 40 percent in the past 25 years.

LifeBridge 'Mammothon' event credited with saving lives scheduled for Nov. 1

LifeBridge Health’s third Mammothon is scheduled for Nov. 1, offering extended hours to make sure that local women do not forget their annual screening.

While there remains some controversy about whether recommended mammogram screenings have led to the over-diagnosis and over-treatment of breast cancer, it is no coincidence that the mortality rate from the disease has decreased over the years since awareness campaigns about the disease and getting screened have taken off, combined with improved treatments.

Locally, Carroll Hospital, which is part of the LifeBridge Health Group, will have its annual Mammothon on Nov. 1, encouraging women to get screened for breast cancer.

Early detection screenings exist for nearly all cancers, although some are not nearly as well-known as others.

For example, despite lung cancer being the leading cause of cancer-related death and the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer, most people diagnosed with the disease don’t find it until the later stages, when the survival rate is significantly lower. This is because most people don’t get diagnosed until symptoms begin to show, and may often confuse those symptoms with those of a common cold, and delay going to the doctor. By that time, the cancer is usually in a more advanced stage and more difficult to treat.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is 17 percent — a statistic that has remained largely unchanged for decades. However, lung cancers discovered at the earliest stage have a survival rate of about 80 percent.

New lung cancer screenings a breath of fresh air

There's no way around it, lung cancer is a tough challenge. It may not be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, but it is particularly deadly, according to Dr. Randy Becker, a radiologist who practices at Advanced Radiology in Westminster.

Low-dose Computed Tomography scans have been proven to detect more early stage cancers and decrease the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent in some patients. It is only recently that CT screening for lung cancer has been covered by private insurance (2014) and approved for coverage by Medicare (2015), and preventative screenings have still not been widely adopted.

The American Cancer Society recommends a yearly low-dose CT scan for people with a higher risk for lung cancer — people aged 55 to 74 years who currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years, and have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history (a pack-year is one pack of cigarettes per day per year).

Recommendations from the ACS on screenings for other cancers include:

Breast cancer: Women 40 to 44 should have a choice to start annual mammograms; women 45 to 54 should have mammograms every year; women 55 should switch to every two years or continue annual screening and should continue as long as a woman is in good health.

Colon and rectal cancer polyps: Begin regular screening at age 45 until age 75. Talk to your health care provider about which tests might be good options for you and to your insurance provider about coverage.

Cervical cancer: Testing should begin age age 21. Women should have a Pap test every 3 years though age 29; women aged 30 to 65 should have a Pap test plus HPV test done every 5 years.

Prostate cancer: At age 50, men should talk to their health care provider about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is right for them. If you decide to be tested, have a Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test with or without a rectal exam to determine how often you will be tested.

Skin cancer: There is not enough evidence to recommend routine screening to find skin cancers early. Report any unusual moles or changes in your skin to your doctor.


Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for certain types of cancer, what you can do to prevent cancer and what early screening tests might be right for you. Having these conversations and knowing your body can make a huge difference in detecting a cancer early and living a long life after diagnosis.