The same week that a diagnosis of cancer reared its ugly head in my family, I happened to take notice of a comforting ad in a local newspaper. A hospital a few towns away was offering a cancer screening event for a nominal fee. Since reality has struck, and nobody is immune to cancer, I decided to attend the screening.
The staff worked from a checklist, testing for oral, skin, cervical and breast cancer. Since I had never attended a cancer screening event, I was unsure what type of test would be preformed for each screening. With modern technology, I was hoping a quick draw of blood would give them all the information they needed. When I arrived, although the staff was personable, they didn’t explain what would happen at each screening station.
Oral Cancer Screening
The oral cancer screening was a simple visual exam with a lot of pressing on my chin and cheeks. A classic wooden tongue depressor was used, along with a small flashlight to check all areas inside of my mouth.
Skin Cancer Screening
The skin, breast and cervical exam all took place in a private exam room. The nurse asked me to undress, and wear a hospital gown. The skin cancer screening was a simple visual test, followed by questions from the doctor. He asked if I had noticed any abnormalities in my skin such as a change of color, growth of a mole or other sensitive spots.
Breast Cancer Screening
Women that have an annual exam by a gynecologist won’t be surprised by the breast and cervical cancer screenings. The breast exam included a list of questions about any changes in texture, color or tenderness while the doctor did the physical exam. Expect pressing and rolling of the skin, around and on, the breasts.
Cervical Cancer Screening
The cervical cancer screening was the same as an annual PAP smear. A small sampling of cervical cells were collected and sent for testing. The test can determine if pre-cancerous or cancer cells are in the cervix.
Since some screening results are not available on the day of the cancer screening, ask the staff if they will call or mail the results, and how long it will take to receive the information. Some clinics will schedule a follow-up appointment during the screening.
Don’t be surprised if the results are not black-and-white, and additional testing is recommended. Common follow up procedures from a cervical cancer screening may include an endometrial biopsy or a saline infused sonohystogram. These tests allow the doctors to gather more information, to give an accurate diagnosis.