Early detection of cancer in people without symptoms (also called screening) can help to find and treat cancer early, leading to better outcomes. Promoting nationally recognized screening tests is a priority for the Vermont Department of Health.
All Vermont adults should discuss cancer prevention, screening and early detection with their health care provider. This type of discussion can help idividuals better understand their risk for developing cancer, and decide what tests are most appropriate based on their specific family and health history.
We publish a Cancer Screening Guide to help patients and their health care providers better understand how and when to be screened for cancer. The Cancer Screening Guide helps clarify when and how patients should be screened for cancer.
Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death for Vermont men and women.
Colorectal cancer is caused by abnormal growths, called polyps, which form inside the colon and rectum and can become cancerous. In many cases, regular screening can prevent colorectal cancer altogether because polyps can be found and removed before they turn into cancer. Screening is also important because it can find colorectal cancer early, when it is highly curable.
Regular screening, beginning at age 50 (for average-risk individuals) is the key to reducing the burden of colorectal cancer. Several screening options are available.
Cervical cancer screening can detect cervical cancer at an early stage when it is easiest to treat. Screening can also find abnormalities of and changes to the cervix before they progress to cancer. Since few women with cervical cancer have symptoms or signs that indicate a problem, widespread screening for early detection is critical. Asymptomatic women with average risk for cancer should begin regular screening for cervical cancer at age 21.
Cervical cancer occurs primarily among women infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Male and female adolescents should receive the HPV vaccine to prevent many of the cancers associated with HPV.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Vermont women, and the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
Mammography is the best available method to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines state that average-risk women should begin screening with mammography every two years starting at age 50. Women younger than 50 should discuss their individual risk and the benefits and harms of screening with their health care provider.
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Vermont and the U.S. The majority of lung cancers are diagnosed in late stages of the disease when treatment is mostly ineffective.
Until recently, there were no screening tests for detecting lung cancers at an early stage. Screening guidelines were developed in 2013 for high risk individuals, based on their smoking history and age (current and former heavy smokers age 55-80). This screening method uses low dose computed tomography to detect abnormalities in the lungs.
While lung cancer screening is important, it should not be considered a substitute for quitting smoking. Tobacco Cessation strategies should continue to be emphasized.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is a leading cause of cancer death among Vermont men
Cancer of the prostate is often slow growing. Many men who develop prostate cancer never have symptoms and do not benefit from treatment. The treatment for prostate cancer can often cause moderate to substantial side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and bowel dysfunction.
Due to the effects of treatment and gaps in the currently available early detection methods, screening for prostate cancer is not universally endorsed. Health care providers should carry out prostate cancer risk assessment with adult male patients and have open conversations with patients who have questions about prostate cancer and PSA screening.
A comprehensive collection of health data is used to monitor cancer in Vermont. The Vermont Cancer Registry, a statewide cancer surveillance system, collects information on all cases of cancer diagnosed and treated in Vermont. Other sources of data, such as population health surveys and vital records are utilized to provide high-quality cancer reporting. These data help us work to effectively reduce the burden of cancer in our state.