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Improving how we prevent and survive cancer

Take a stand against cancer.

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COVID-19 shifted attention away from other health concerns. But it didn't change the fact that nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime.1

Cancer is a disease that causes cells to grow out of control. It can then cause health issues and lead to death by spreading to tissues and organs throughout the body.

There are several national awareness dates, including breast cancer in October, pancreatic cancer in November and Cancer Screen Week in December. Each provides a chance to focus on cancer prevention and early detection to improve lives and increase longevity.

 

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Cancer risk factors within your control

The causes of some cancers are not completely understood. You can’t change your age or family history. But other lifestyle choices, like what you eat and how much you exercise, can affect your chances of getting cancer.

In fact, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. can be avoided (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). That's about 797,000 cancer cases diagnosed in 2021.2

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Screening for cancer

Every day in the U.S., nearly 5,000 people get a cancer diagnosis.3

One of the best tools in the fight against cancer is routine screenings. Screenings can’t prevent cancer. Yet they can find it early, when care might work best.

More than one-third of Americans missed screenings because of COVID-19.4 One million fewer mammograms (x-ray images of the breast), colon or rectum (colorectal) and cervical cancer screenings took place compared to previous years.

Faced with these challenges, health care leaders found options for in-person testing. They sent screening kits to patients’ homes and utilized telehealth tools such as video chats. Our culture is rich in technology. Lessons learned might help make future screenings easier to get.

What do you need to know about tests and other preventive steps? Keep reading to learn more.

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  • Generally, cancer is easier to care for when found early. Delays in screening may mean finding cancers when they are harder to care for, meaning they are larger or have progressed to other parts of the body.

    Panel 1: Cancer screening
    Screening takes place when a doctor or other medical professionals check for cancer.

    You don't need to have symptoms of cancer.

    There are many screening tests available to find certain types of cancer early and to reduce the chance of dying from that cancer.

    Panel 2: What cancer screenings are available?

    • Breast
      About 1 in 8 women, along with 1 in 833 men risk developing breast cancer in their lifetime.

      Breast Cancer Screening: Exams and tests to look for signs of disease in the breast
      • Physical exam of the breast to feel for lumps and other symptoms o Mammogram or MRI and Mammogram
      • Screening guidance based on age and risk factors, such as personal or family history and genetics
      99%
      The 5-year survival rate for people diagnosed with breast cancer that's detected at the local stage (has not left the breast)

    • Colorectal (colon and rectum)
      1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women in the U.S. will develop colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer screening: A medical test for signs of cancer in the colon and rectum
      • Stool-based test
      • Screening guidance based on age and family history
      91%
      The five-year survival rate for finding colorectal cancer at the local stage

    • Cervical
      99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to infection with the sexually-transmitted disease called high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV).

      Cervical Cancer Screening: A test for cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus
      • Test for HPV, a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) and/or Pap testing for cancer in the cervix
      • Screening guidance based on age
      92%
      The five-year survival rate for detecting cervical cancer at the local stage

    • Lung
      25% of all deaths from cancer are lung cancer

      Lung cancer screening: A test for cancer in your lungs

      • Low-dose CT (LDCT) once per year
      • Screening guidance based on age and risk factors, like history of smoking
      63%
      The five-year survival rate for finding lung cancer in the local stage (in the lung)

    • Skin
      1 in 27 men and 1 in 40 women who are white, non-Hispanic will have the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, in their lifetime.

      Skin cancer screening: A checkup to look over your skin for any spots with an unusual size, shape, color or texture

      • Checking your skin during a physical exam and doing self-exams of your skin
      • There is not standard screening guidance, but you should know your own skin
      Appx. 99%
      The five-year survival rate for people with melanoma when found early

    • Prostate
      About 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

      Prostate screening: Tests to detect cancer in the gland below the bladder in a man's body that helps make semen
      • A blood test and digital rectal exam
      • Screening guidance based on age and risk which should be discussed with your doctor
      Nearly 100%
      The five-year survival rate for men when prostate cancer is detected at the local stage

    Get more details on screening guidelines and options.

    Panel 3: Where can I get a cancer screening?
    Get support finding a doctor near you

    The American Cancer Society recommends talking to a doctor or health care provider about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening before making the decision to get screened.

    Panel 4: Know what questions to ask my doctor

    The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.

    • What cancer screening tests are recommended for someone my age?
    • How often should I get the screening tests?
    • Do I need to see any specialists to get my screening tests done, or can you order all of them for me?
    • Will insurance cover it? If not what will it cost?
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Any improvements in screenings and early detection could have a widespread impact.

Now is the time to get back in the habit of routine cancer screenings. Because staying on top of your health is one of the most important calls you can make.

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Play your part in cancer prevention

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Cancer screen week

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Website

Join in Cancer Screen Week

We’ve partnered with the American Cancer Society, Genentech and Stand Up To Cancer. Find screening locations and how to plan a safe cancer screening during COVID-19. You’ll also find screening guidelines for common cancers.

Access resources

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Article

Simple changes to reduce your chances of getting cancer

We all have habits and behaviors that are less than ideal for a healthy life. Did you know that reducing smoking by one cigarette a day adds 11 minutes to your lifespan? Here are some simple adjustments you can make to reduce your cancer risk.

Read more

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Online pledge

Pledge to get screened for cancer

In partnership with Stand Up To Cancer, we want to help you stay on top of your health. Learn what cancer screenings and preventive care might be right for you.

Take the pledge

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What makes you healthy?

From your job to your ZIP code, learn more about the things that have an impact on whether you're living your healthiest life.

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Find support for your medical care

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Optum Care

Find a local doctor — among the 53,000 Optum Care physicians — who can help you decide which cancer screenings you might need.

Learn more

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Optum Store

Learn about virtual care and mental health support available from the comfort of your home.

Learn more

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Rally

Be inspired to stay healthy by getting annual physicals and screenings, eating smarter and exercising more.

Learn more

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Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute. Cancer statistics. Last updated September 25, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2021.
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2021. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Cancer Screen Week. Cancer screening may help save lives. Accessed October 1, 2021.