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What to Know About Early Detection and the Latest Cancer Screening Guidelines

Preventing cancer means taking a range of proactive measures, from eating right to regular screenings. The World Health Organization cites that “between 30-50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable,” noting the importance of regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, to considerably reduce an individual’s risk.

In recognition of Cancer Prevention Month this February, Fifth Season Financial is shedding light on prevention methods for this devastating disease, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be the second leading cause of death in the United States. This includes the importance of early cancer detection, early signs and symptoms of cancer, and financial support for cancer patients.

Early detection of cancer and screening guidelines

Early diagnosis of cancer requires what the American Cancer Society defines as screening: “Screening tests are used to find cancer before a person has any symptoms.”

This can have an outsized impact on beating cancer. “Screening increases the chances of detecting certain cancers early, when they might be easier to treat,” the American Cancer Society writes. Cancer screening tests entail various examinations by your physician.

Detailed screening guidelines are available for many types of cancer. For example, breast cancer early detection requires screening that starts around middle age: “Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so,” the American Cancer Society explains.

The organization also recommends regular colon and rectal screenings beginning at age 45 for adults at average risk of colorectal cancer. There are guidelines for a range of other cancers — like cervical, endometrial, lung, and prostate — on the American Cancer Society website.

What are the early signs and symptoms of cancer?

In addition to proactive screenings, it’s also helpful to know the early signs of cancer, which can vary greatly depending on the specific form of the disease.

The most common type of cancer in the United States is breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer symptoms in women include “a lump or mass in the breast tissue,” writes the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Additional signs include irritated breasts, changes in breast color, or general pain in the breasts.

The most common type of cancer for men is prostate cancer. Prostate cancer symptoms in men include frequent urination, blood in urine, pain during urination, and discomfort while sitting, according to You can find a full list of prostate cancer symptoms on the website.

“If you have symptoms that do not get better after a few weeks, see your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible,” advises the National Cancer Institute. “Often, cancer does not cause pain, so do not wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.” The organization also has an online resource available with symptoms for many types of cancer.

Financial support for cancer screening

While weighing the health benefits of screenings, it’s also necessary to consider the costs. Some health insurance plans cover cancer screening tests. Unfortunately, however, not all do. For people whose plans don’t cover screening, or for those without insurance, there are still options. Many local hospitals and cancer nonprofits provide free or low-cost screenings. If you find yourself facing a cancer diagnosis and expensive course of treatment, there are further means of financial support. One resource is your life insurance policy. Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living Program, for example, allows patients with an advanced-stage illness such as cancer to receive a cash advance from their policy. These funds can cover costly medical bills or other expenses – there are no restrictions on how the money may be spent. To learn more, call (866) 459-1271 or visit

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