The Value of Preventive Cancer Screenings for Early Detection

June 03, 2019

If you’re interested in improving your health and taking care of your body, you may already be getting more fit and active, making better choices about your diet, and seeing your doctor for regular checkups. One of the best ways to protect your good health is to follow any recommendations from your doctor for preventive cancer screening tests. 

Why Should I Have Cancer Screenings?
AlatMed cancer screenings

 
Cancer screenings help find cancer early, sometimes even before there are symptoms, when it may be easier to treat or cure. Cancer tests may involve:

  • Physical exams
  • Lab tests (such as blood or urine samples)
  • Imaging procedures (such as MRIs or ultrasounds)
  • Genetic tests

It is important to remember that being referred for a test doesn’t mean that your doctor believes that you have cancer. The tests often help rule out cancer as a possibility. 


When Will My Doctor Recommend Screenings?
AltaMed woman and doctor


 
Even if you have no symptoms, preventive cancer screenings are recommended if you are at risk for certain cancers. This may mean that you have:

  • A family history
  • A personal history
  • Certain previously identified genetic signs
  • Previous exposure to cancer-causing substances either through smoking or in your workplace
  • Developed a blood clot without a clear reason

Doctors are also more likely to recommend screenings for older patients, but if you have more risk factors, your doctor may suggest screenings at a younger age than usual.


Types of Screenings
AltaMed types of screening

 
You doctor may recommend one or more of the following screenings: 

  •  Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy screenings look for early signs of colorectal cancer and are usually performed on people aged 50-75.
  • An X-ray called a low-dose helical computed tomography (LDCT) is used to screen for lung cancer in those between the ages of 55 – 74 who have a history of heavy smoking.
  • Mammograms screen for breast cancer and have been shown to reduce deaths from the disease for women aged 40-74. 
  • Pap & HPV testing are used for early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Testing typically begins at 21 and ends at 65, provided the woman is at normal risk.

Other screenings outlined by the National Cancer Institute are used to look for:

  • Liver disease (blood test)
  • Genetic mutations that lead to breast cancer (breast MRI)
  • Ovarian cancer (blood test and ultrasound)
  • Abnormalities leading to skin cancer (skin exams)
  • Prostate cancer (blood test)


Early Detection is Key
AltaMed early detection

 
Early detection is the number one goal of these screenings. By finding any abnormalities at their earliest stage, you can reduce the chance of the cancer spreading, and improve the chances of treating or even curing it. 

The best way to stay healthy and make sure you are getting the screenings you need is to get regular health checkups. Depending on your personal and family health histories, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you.

Contact AltaMed for more information about the health screenings you need at (888) 499-9303

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Mental Health Matters

December 03, 2018

Mental Health is Part of Your Health
group of friends

The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.

It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.
 

Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression
depressed man

You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.

But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.

Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression. 

There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.
 

Seek Out Professional Help
woman at doctor

If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care. 

Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them. 


Getting Tested and Treated
man and doctor

Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.

You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.

At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment. 

If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.


You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone.
people hugging

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255


 

Mental Health: Seek Help, Be the Help

July 23, 2018

Mental health and suicide have been topics of interest in the media due to the recent loss of several high-profile celebrities. At AltaMed, we are here to help so that mental health issues can be treated and do not lead to suicide. Although it may be hard, you can always ask for help and be of support to others.

Here is how you can take action:

people hugging

Seek Help
Seek professional help if you ever feel helpless or alone in your feelings. If you feel like you need to talk, open up to friends or family who you trust. If you feel like you need professional help, you can safely reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline anonymously. Once you open up and acknowledge the underlying issue, you’ll be able to move forward and work on treating it. 

two male friends

Be the Help
Be there for those around you and look for warning signs. Speak with dignity and respect when discussing mental illness to create a safe space for others to open up without judgment. Be a positive influence on others and empower them. Encourage others to reach out to the resources listed below to get them the help they need. 

track running

A Fresh Start
Every day is an opportunity to start fresh. Work on putting yourself first by doing things that make you feel good from the inside. You can go for a walk, dance to your favorite music, spend time volunteering and helping others, or hang out with friends or family. 

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, reach out to our Behavior Health team at (855) 425-1777. Our licensed clinical social workers are trained to help you cope when life gets stressful.

If you are in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention hotline today at (800) 273-TALK (8255)