Living with cancer blog

Are you a gambler? Don't risk skipping screening

By Lonnie Fynskov, R.N. September 23, 2016

Are you a gambler? If so, how high are the stakes you're willing to take?

Some of you might be willing to gamble that those extra pounds, the next pack of cigarettes, or the sedentary or stress-filled life you're living won't really make a difference in the development of cancer or other illnesses. Obviously, those are all challenging habits to change but they definitely put you at greater risk for serious health problems.

Avoiding cancer screening exams may be another high stakes gamble. Colon cancer, for example, is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States but sadly, only about half of the population that should be screened is actually being screened. Yet, if screening leads to a diagnosis before it has spread to other areas, colon cancer has a 5 year survival rate of 90 percent.

There are many reasons why you may choose to avoid screening exams: fear of the exam, fear of the results, lack of insurance, the financial burden of time away from work, and probably several more reasons. We make decisions based on what we know and feel at the time.

If you need to take unpaid time off from work to have an exam, it may be more challenging to convince yourself to do it. However, if that choice leads to an undiagnosed cancer, the consequences may be significant. Seems a lot like being between a rock and a hard place, doesn't it?

As science and technology continue to develop, hopefully, screening for cancer will become easier and more readily available. It would be wonderful if all insurance companies and employers would embrace the idea that preventive screenings are an investment they want to support.

Meanwhile, some screenings are becoming more convenient. We've already seen advancements such as a stool DNA test for colon cancer. This test can be done at home, is painless and requires no preparation.

When asked what you value most in life, many would say health is somewhere at the top of the list. Rarely would you jeopardize your health unless you had significant reasons.

If you've overcome obstacles regarding getting preventive screenings, please share them in the comments. It's a great way to learn from each other!

Sept. 23, 2016