This year, resolve to schedule preventive health screenings - Primary Health

This year, resolve to schedule preventive health screenings

  • January 2, 2024

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 3 minutes

preventive cancer screenings

Make this the year you take charge of your health. Use our screening tool guidance to understand which health screenings are right for you.

A new year brings forth much hope for changes we resolve to make in life, and many such resolutions tend to be around our health. This blog sheds some light on preventive screening tools that might benefit your health. 

As a primary care physician, nothing is more fulfilling than discussing preventive health strategies with my patients. Preventive health is a broad umbrella that includes everything from routine vaccines to sexual health; from lowering your risk for heart disease to detecting cancer as early as possible. This sounds overwhelming to patients and providers alike!  

Fortunately, we have scientific data from studies that guide us in making recommendations and a tool to help us assimilate and understand them. This tool comes from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of experts who continuously evaluate data to make the most informed recommendations around preventive screenings. 

Graded USPSTF recommendations

USPSTF recommendations use a standardized metric to grade the strength of their recommendations. This helps clinicians and patients understand the quality of evidence behind each recommendation:

  • Grade A recommendations have the greatest body of evidence to support them with certainty. 
  • Grades B and C have a progressively lower strength of recommendation. In general, both Grade A and Grade B recommendations are routinely recommended to everyone in the practice, while Grade C recommendations are offered in more limited settings.
  • Grade D recommendations are when guidelines actually recommend against a certain service with reasonable certainty. 
  • And finally, Grade I indicates an insufficient level of evidence to assess the benefits and harms from a service. 

While it’s impossible to provide a review of every USPSTF recommendation, I’d like to highlight a few recommendations in one key area as an example: cancer screening. (Note: In future blogs, I will provide other health screening guidelines.)

Which cancer screenings are for you?

With cancer a leading cause of mortality in adults in the United States, it is very important to discuss routine cancer screenings with your provider:

  • Screening for colon cancer and cervical cancer both receive the strongest recommendations, reflecting a clear benefit from screening. There are age-based cutoffs, with colon cancer screening most strongly recommended for adults aged 50 to 75 years and cervical cancer screening in those aged 21 to 65 with a cervix. 
  • Screening for breast cancer also receives a current grade B recommendation for women aged 50 to 74, with a weaker grade C recommendation for women between the ages of 40 and 49. 
  • Lung cancer screening receives a grade B recommendation in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. 
  • Prostate cancer screening in men between the ages of 55 and 69 receives a grade C recommendation. This means it is a more nuanced decision to make in consultation with your provider.
  • Several cancer screenings receive a grade D recommendation, meaning USPSTF actively recommends against routine screening for these cancers. These include pancreatic, ovarian, testicular, and thyroid cancers.

So as you roll into the new year and think about your health, don’t forget to check which USPSTF recommendations apply to you. Then, gear up for a discussion on preventive screenings with your healthcare provider.

Make Primary.Health your prevention partner

Good health often takes a community. Primary.Health empowers communities, public health organizations, health plans, and other large groups to provide diagnostic testing, immunizations, and preventive health screenings at scale.

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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