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Healthbeat 4: Why getting regular cancer screenings are so important

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(KTIV) - Recent data shows cancer screenings have dropped in Siouxland, increasing cancer diagnosis.

Cancer screenings can be intimidating. But cancer, itself, is even scarier. That is why it is important to consistently go to your doctor to make sure your scans are picture-perfect.

"Lot of times, people are really afraid of what they may find, or they have heard that, you know, cancers are incurable. And you don't have the whole story. We really strongly recommend that people should get screened. But again, it's the fear of the unknown and the fear of the C-word called cancer,"said Dr. Matthew Obinna Nwaneri, the medical director of the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.

The 2021 Cancer in Iowa report says two in five Iowans will be diagnosed with cancer. Getting screened regularly, and catching cancer early, increases your chance of survival.

"If we find these cancers early, they're more treatable and curable at early stages…by the time you have symptoms from a cancer, usually it's more difficult to treat, and much costlier to the system and to the person itself," said Dr. Nwaneri.

Dr. Nwaneri says he understands the fear people have surrounding certain screenings, like prostate or colorectal.

"Some people worry, number one, that cancer screening is dangerous, they could die from it. And so it is no, it is very, very safe in terms of doing it. Personally, myself, I'm sure I don't look it, but I'm over 50, I've had a colonoscopy. And it's not that bad," said Dr. Nwaneri.

So now what? First, you want to contact your primary health care physician to figure when and what screenings you need to do regularly. This can vary from age, sex and even race.

"African Americans and some ethnic minorities recommend starting that screening actually at 45. Because we have found out that some African Americans, and in some ethnic minorities, they may present it to colon cancer a little bit earlier," said Dr. Nwaneri.

But for skin cancer, you can get screened for that anytime you notice something suspicious. Dr. Nwaneri worries if people continue to avoid regular checkups, cancer rates will continue to climb.

"Please, please, please, it will help improve our numbers and help us prevent people from dying from cancers that are preventable, curable and may go away for a very long time," said Dr. Nwaneri.

Dr. Nwaneri says he may be a cancer doctor, but he wants to see Siouxland's cancer statistics go down by people getting more regular screenings.

KTIV is teaming up with June E. Nylen Cancer Center, MercyOne Siouxland and UnityPoint-St. Luke's to help Siouxlanders understand when to get cancer screenings and why they are so important to all of our health. During September and November, we will show you what certain cancer screenings entail and why it is important to get them done sooner rather than later.

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Claire Bradshaw

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