Posted on: 26 October 2018Share
Getting older is an inevitable part of life, and with it comes a higher risk of developing serious and sometimes fatal health problems. The likelihood of staying healthy into old age can be increased through lifestyle choices, such as eating well, getting regular exercise, regulating alcohol consumption and quitting smoking. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that a healthy lifestyle will mean continued good health, particularly if in your younger years, your lifestyle was less healthy.
One of the biggest health issues that afflict people as they age is cancer. Although cancer treatment has come a long way in recent years, early detection and treatment are still the biggest contributors to a good outcome. Although some cancers don't have screening tests available, here are two cancer screening tests that are readily available and very important to undertake regularly.
1. Skin cancer screening
Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world. Despite aggressive awareness programs on preventing the skin damage caused by UV exposure, skin cancer rates continue to rise. This is in part because many skin cancers are triggered by UV exposure during childhood or young adulthood.
The best way to reduce your risk of serious illness or death from skin cancer is to have an annual skin cancer check by your GP or a specialist skin doctor. They can recognise both existing skin cancer and the small changes to moles and freckles that herald precancerous cell changes.
2. Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in Australia. Because the symptoms of the established disease are commonly confused with other less serious ailments, many people don't get a diagnosis until the disease is at an advanced stage, which makes treatment lengthier and more invasive and increases the risk of terminal illness.
Bowel cancer screening is the best way to detect the cell changes within the bowel that mark the beginning of this type of cancer. A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is recommended for all adults over the age of 50 and can be done in the privacy of your own home. This test looks for evidence of blood in the faeces that suggests the developments of precancerous polyps in the bowel.
If your FOBT shows signs of polyps, or if you have a family history of bowel cancer, then you should also have a colonoscopy undertaken. This involves investigating the bowel with a tiny camera to check for polyps. Finding polyps and treating them before they become cancerous is the most effective way of avoiding bowel cancer development.