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Preventing Cancer in Pennsylvania

Cropped SingleCare logo By | November 23, 2015

Today, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation with respect to rates of cancer incidence. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact causes, there are a few ways to screen for — and possibly prevent — cancer before more serious action is required.

Cancer is on the rise in the Keystone State — and no one quite knows why. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Pennsylvanians experience the third-highest rate of cancer diagnoses in the nation, trailing just Delaware and Kentucky.

In Philadelphia alone, the average rate is 541.6 incidences per 100,000 people, according to a report from Billy Penn that cites data from the National Cancer Institute. And statewide incidences have reached 494.8 per 100,000 people annually, a full 7% higher than the national average of 459.8.

Cancer is a complex disease with numerous causes, from genetics to the environment to non-nuclear carcinogens. Given the much higher survival rate of those who get cancer screenings early and often, it’s never been more important for Pennsylvanians to understand the warning signs.

Determining Your Risk

When screening for cancer, a doctor may first try to see if you are at risk for certain types, depending on a variety of factors. One particular type that’s on the rise in Pennsylvania is thyroid cancer, according to a report from Penn State College Medicine. In this case, certain genetic markers may point to a higher risk for thyroid cancer, such as sex, family history, and even race. In fact, the same report found that Asian females have a greater chance of contracting thyroid cancer.

Other indicators include genetics, iodine deficiency, and exposure to radioactivity. While some factors are hard to control, like genetics or the level of pollution in the environment, other contributors to increasing cancer risks are easy to avoid. Studies have found that excessive consumption of grilled meat or interrupted circadian rhythms (sleep) can increase the likelihood of contracting some cancers. Like with most health matters, consumption in moderation, exercise, and plenty of sleep are easy ways to lower your risk of a diagnosis.

Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Since there are so many factors that can lead to cancer but often don’t, people should be on the lookout for more clear indicators of this complex disease. With less than half of one percent of Americans contracting cancer every year, new developments in your health need not cause anxiety. However, the American Cancer Society points to certain symptoms that may be early warning signs, such as sudden weight loss, fatigue, high fever, general pain, and unusual changes in the skin.

Most forms of cancer have at least some identifying symptoms. Lumps in the breast, lymph nodes, and testicles should be examined as soon as possible, especially for those already at a higher risk due to their age, race, or gender. By the same token, sores that fail to heal on the skin or inside the mouth should be checked by a professional.

Cancer Screening

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It’s impossible to screen every single person for every type of cancer, and it’d be absolutely maddening to mentally link every health abnormality we experience to a cancer diagnosis. That’s why the American Cancer Society has issued guidelines to help people determine and receive the right type of screening for their genetic background. Here are some examples:

1. Breast Cancer: one of the most treatable cancers, especially if detected early. Women ages 40 to 44 can opt for annual mammograms, though this becomes a necessity between the ages of 45 and 54. After turning 55 years old, women may reduce screenings to once every two years.

2. Prostate Cancer: men ages 50 and older should talk to a doctor about possible testing. Certain factors can make you more susceptible, such as race and family history.

3. Lung Cancer: smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 and/or those who have smoked a pack a day for 30 years or more should strongly consider getting screened.

Even if you’re not at particular risk for cancer, regular checkups and appointments with a primary care physician are great practices to ensure you stay healthy. SingleCare‘s expansive network of quality doctors ensures that members don’t have to compromise quality for cost efficiency. With savings of up to 50%, SingleCare can help the uninsured or those with gaps in their insurance get the care they need at an affordable price.

(Main image credit: dibrova/Thinkstock)