Screening and Prevention

Early detection really does save lives, and we encourage you to talk to your doctor about your risks and cancer screening schedule. 

While there is no way to completely avoid some cancers, you can reduce your risk by:

  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Protecting yourself from the sun
  • Getting immunized
  • Avoiding risky behaviors
  • Following a screening schedule, including self-exams

Mammography beginning at age 40 offers the best chance of detecting an early breast cancer. However, you should discuss your individual risk with your physician to decide what timing is right for you.

Learn more about mammography and schedule your appointment online.

Here are a few screenings in which Sentara provides expert care:

Sentara Cancer Network Screening Recommendations

  • Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women in the United States. Early breast cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms, which makes it that much more important to screen early, especially for those at a higher risk.

    Sentara offers six comprehensive breast centers where patients can count on the latest screening, diagnostic, treatment and support services. Sentara breast care patients benefit from the area’s only full-time radiologists with fellowship training in breast imaging.

    Preventative or early detection measures include yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health, clinical breast exam (CBE) about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s. Breast self-exams (BSE) are also recommended for women starting at age 20, women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes promptly to their healthcare provider.

     Read more about breast cancer care at Sentara.

  • Colorectal Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Colorectal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in either the tissues of the colon, the longest part of the large intestine, or the rectum, the last several inches of the large intestine. Together, colon and rectal cancer are referred to as colorectal cancer.

    To find polyps (predecessors of colon cancer) and early colorectal cancer, everyone in their 50s and older should be screened. People who are higher-than-average risk for colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about whether to have screening test before age 50. Early detection and removal of colon cancers can prevent up to 80 percent of cancer deaths.

    Physicians at Sentara have specialized training and expertise in screening and diagnosing colorectal cancer. Many innovative diagnostic procedures and treatments are available to treat and prevent colorectal cancer. We offer the highest level of care and support through the entire treatment process.

    Read more about colorectal care at Sentara.

  • Lung Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Lung cancer forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope. Avoiding risk factors, including cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking, secondhand smoke, environmental risk factors and alcohol use may help prevent lung cancer.

    The Sentara Cancer Care Network is home to a technological breakthrough that helps patients with lung and lymph node tumors to be more accurately diagnosed so treatment can begin sooner. With a new, minimally invasive endobronchial ultrasound procedure at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, known as EBUS, doctors are able to diagnose patients with lung cancers before any surgery begins. Prior to this procedure, patients would have to undergo surgery to get a correct diagnosis.

    Read more about lung cancer care at Sentara.

  • Ovarian Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. It is one of the most aggressive gynecological cancers. Symptoms are frequently very hard to detect early on and may include bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, and are easily confused with other illness symptoms.

    All women should have pelvic exams once per year during their gynecologic visit. Sentara recommends ovarian cancer screening to women with a high risk for developing ovarian cancer using the following procedures, transvaginal ultrasound which examines the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes and bladder and CA-125 blood test. CA-125 measures the level of CA 125 in the blood, it is a substance released by cells into the bloodstream. An increased CA-125 level is sometimes a sign of certain types of cancer, including ovarian cancer.

  • Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Cervical cancer forms in tissues of the cervix, which is the organ connecting the uterus and vagina, normally a slow-growing cancer, it is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Symptoms of cervical cancer may not have symptoms that can be found with a regular Pap test.

    Sentara recommends all women begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old. Screening should be done yearly and some women, because of their history, may need to have a different screening schedule.

    The most common form of cervical cancer begins with pre-cancerous changes, which leaves two ways to stop the disease from developing. One way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become true cancers, and the other is to prevent the pre-cancers in the first place.

  • Prostate Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the prostate. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men. The diagnosis of prostate cancer is rare before the age of 40 but increases dramatically with increasing age. Symptoms include weak or interrupted flow of urine, frequent urination, trouble urinating, pain or burning during urination and more.

    Sentara recommends the following tests to diagnose prostate cancer: digital rectal exam (DRE), prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, transrectal ultrasound and/or a biopsy. Sentara offers a number of promising treatments should you be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Patients receive personal, expedient and excellent care through the many cancer treatments and services available.

    Read more about prostate cancer care at Sentara.

  • Skin Cancer Screening and Prevention

    Affecting one million Americans each year, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Skins cancer can occur anywhere on the body but it is most common in skin that has been exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands and arms. There are several types of skin cancer. The most common include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell skin cancer and melanoma.

    The Sentara Cancer Network suggests the following for prevention: staying out of the midday sun, wear longs sleeves and long pants of tightly woven fabrics as well as a wide brim hat and sunglasses that absorb UV. Also use lotion, cream or gel that contains sunscreen. Sunscreen may help prevent skin cancer especially broad-spectrum sunscreen (to filter UVB and UVA rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Stay away from sunlamps and tanning beds and conduct regular skin self-exams.

    Sentara Cancer Network recommends the following screenings for skin cancer: punch biopsy, incisional biopsy, excisional biopsy or shave biopsy. Sometimes all of the cancer is removed during the biopsy. In such cases no more treatment is needed.