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Overcoming Fear and Procrastination When It Comes to Cancer Screenings

Posted on March 7, 2016 by Kelly Wolford
Mammography Test Screening

A delayed cancer diagnosis can have life-threatening consequences. While the negligence of medical professionals is one reason why such delays occur, other reasons are the fear and procrastination of individuals.

The New York Times once reported on a survey of 500 cancer survivors. Out of that group, “more than half of them delayed seeking treatment for two months or more despite having symptoms of their disease,” the newspaper reported.

In some situations, people hope that their symptoms will dissipate without treatment. In other cases, people fear the results of a diagnosis. Of course, many people procrastinate when it comes to getting proper care and treatment because they have concerns about the costs of care.

Regardless of the reason, about 15 percent of the cancer survivors surveyed “waited one to five years after their symptoms appeared before finally seeking medical advice,” according to the Times.

Fear Can Be a Major Factor for Many People

According to a report from the American Association for Cancer Research, the fear of getting cancer affects people in different ways. In some people, that fear results in more visits to the doctor and close attention to recommendations for cancer screenings. But in others, that fear prevents them from visiting the doctor’s office altogether and avoiding cancer screenings.

An article in PsychCentral underscores that fear can prevent certain people from having cancer screenings. It is important to stress to those persons that getting screenings on a regular basis means they will have less to worry about in the long term.

One way to overcome one’s fear about undergoing a cancer screening is to learn more about what screenings involve.

What is a Cancer Screening?

According to a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer screening means “checking your body for cancer before you have symptoms.” Regular screening tests can help doctors to find certain types of cancer early on such as breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. Finding cancer when it is in its early stages typically means a better likelihood of successful treatment and survival.

Types of Cancer Screenings for Different Types of Cancers

The CDC identifies different types of cancer screenings and explains how they work, including:

  • Breast cancer – Typically, mammograms are used for breast cancer screening. Mammograms can help to “find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat.” The CDC recommends both breast self-exams and clinical breast exams. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a screening mammogram every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 74. For women between the ages of 40 to 49, it is important to discuss screening needs with their doctor. Breast cancer screenings are relatively quick and non-invasive. They can help to catch this form of cancer in its early stages.
  • Cervical cancer – To screen for cervical cancer, healthcare providers use the Pap test. This test takes a cervical smear to test for pre-cancers, or changes to your cervix. Cervical cancer screening can also include an HPV test. This test looks for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause dangerous changes to your cervix. All women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have regular screenings. This screening is relatively convenient and can dramatically reduce a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer – Colon cancer “almost always develops pre-cancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum,” according to the CDC. By having regular screenings, your doctor can spot these precancerous polyps before they turn into colorectal cancer. The typical screening process for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, which the USPSTF recommends starting at age 50.
  • Lung cancer – For people with a history of smoking, including those who have quit within the last 15 years, the USPSTF recommends that they undergo yearly lung cancer screenings (especially if they are between the ages of 55 and 80). Lung cancer screenings usually involve low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). According to the University of Kansas Cancer Center, this is one of the easiest cancer screenings to undergo. It requires no medications or needles. All you have to do is hold your breath for at least six seconds while your chest is scanned.
  • Prostate cancer – For men who do not have symptoms, the USPSTF does not recommend regular cancer screening. If you have particular concerns, you should speak with your physician about your risk of prostate cancer.
  • Skin cancer – While the USPSTF does not currently have enough information to recommend routine skin cancer screenings, it does recommend that patients have regular checkups in which a doctor looks for any skin abnormalities. If you are a fair-skinned person aged 65 and older, or if you have atypical moles or more than 50 moles, you should talk with your doctor about the risk of melanoma.

While some cancer screenings are more convenient than others, all of the recommended regular cancer screenings can help to catch cancer early and to make successful treatment possible.

Negligence and Delayed Cancer Diagnoses

Consequences of missed or delayed diagnoses can be severe. Getting a cancer diagnosis as quickly as possible can be the difference between life and death. You can help to ensure that cancers are caught as early as possible by having regular cancer screenings.

However, in far too many cases, delayed cancer diagnoses occur because of a healthcare provider’s negligence.

If your health care professional behaved negligently, and you have suffered harm as a result of a delayed cancer diagnosis, an experienced New York delayed diagnosis lawyer can discuss your options with you, which may include filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, today to learn more about how we can assist with your claim in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in the state of New York.