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Cancer screenings

Cancer screenings are powerful tools in the realm of health care, offering the promise of early detection and, subsequently, more effective treatment and improved outcomes. These screenings encompass a range of diagnostic tests and procedures designed to identify cancer at its earliest, most manageable stages or even in precancerous conditions, often before any noticeable symptoms arise. From mammograms for breast cancer to colonoscopies for colorectal cancer and a variety of other screening methods tailored to different types of cancer, these proactive measures play a pivotal role in safeguarding our health. 

Benefits of cancer screenings 

  • Early detection: One of the primary advantages of cancer screenings is the ability to detect cancer at its earliest stages, often before symptoms appear. Early detection can lead to more effective treatment options and a higher chance of a cure.

  • Increased survival rates: Cancers that are diagnosed at an early stage are typically more treatable, resulting in better survival rates. Screening allows for timely intervention, which can prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

  • Reduced treatment intensity: When cancer is caught early, less aggressive treatment options may be required. This can lead to fewer side effects, shorter treatment durations, and improved quality of life for patients.

  • Improved treatment outcomes: Early detection can enable health care providers to tailor treatment plans to the specific characteristics of the cancer, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment.

  • Prevention of advanced disease: Regular screenings can help identify precancerous conditions or early signs of cancer, allowing for preventive measures to be taken before the disease progresses.

  • Peace of mind: For individuals at higher risk of cancer due to family history or other factors, regular screenings provide peace of mind by allowing them to actively monitor their health and take proactive steps if needed.

  • Public health impact: Widespread cancer screening programs have the potential to reduce the overall burden of cancer in a population, leading to better public health outcomes.

Schedule a cancer screening today.

With locations across Greater Sacramento, a Dignity Health Advanced Imaging location is just right around the corner. Call our centralized scheduling department to schedule an appointment today.

Who should be getting cancer screenings?

How to prepare for a cancer screening

  • Mammogram:

    • Avoid using deodorant, lotion, or powder on the day of the mammogram, as these products can interfere with the results.

    • Wear comfortable two-piece clothing for easy access to the chest area.

  • Colonoscopy:

    • Follow your health care physician's instructions for dietary restrictions and bowel preparation, which often includes drinking a special solution to clear the colon.

    • Arrange for someone to drive you home, as the sedation used during the procedure can impair your ability to drive.

  • Pap smear:

    • Schedule the appointment when you are not menstruating, as this can affect the accuracy of the test.

    • Avoid douching, using tampons, or having sexual intercourse 24 hours before the test.

  • Low-dose CT scan:

    • No specific preparation is usually needed.


What to expect during a cancer screening

  • Mammogram:

    • You will be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a gown.

    • A radiologic technologist will position your breast on the mammography machine.

    • Your breast will be compressed briefly to obtain clear images.

    • Two images are typically taken of each breast.

  • Colonoscopy:

    • You will be given sedation to make you relaxed and comfortable.

    • The doctor will insert a colonoscope through your rectum to examine the entire colon.

    • Any polyps found may be removed during the procedure.

  • Pap smear:

    • You will lie on an examination table with your feet in stirrups.

    • A speculum will be inserted into the vagina to visualize the cervix.

    • A small brush or spatula will gently collect cells from the cervix for testing.

  • Low-dose CT scan:

    • You will lie on a table that moves through a CT scanner.

    • You may be asked to hold your breath briefly while images are taken.

Frequently asked cancer screening questions

The frequency of cancer screenings depends on factors like age, family history, and previous results. Your Dignity Health oncologist can provide personalized recommendations based on your risk profile.

Most cancer screenings are not painful, but some may cause mild discomfort or anxiety. Discuss any concerns with your health care physician, who can explain what to expect during the procedure.

Many cancer screenings are covered by health insurance, especially those recommended as part of routine preventive care. It's essential to check with your insurance provider for specific details about coverage. Unsure whether your health insurance is accepted at Dignity Health offices? Find a full list of accepted insurances here.

While regular screenings can significantly reduce the risk of late-stage cancer, they cannot guarantee complete prevention. However, they greatly improve the chances of early detection and successful treatment.

An abnormal result does not necessarily mean you have cancer. It may indicate the need for further testing or monitoring. Your Dignity Health oncologist will guide you through the next steps.

Care where you want it

You don’t have to look far for a team of specialists dedicated to helping you get back to the things you love. Our Dignity Health Advanced Imaging Group physicians are here to lend a helping hand.