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Cancer: Diagnosing and Preventing

Know the risksearly detection is important

Cancer can be scary. The disease is linked to genetics, the environment, your age, and pure chance. But since most cancers show no symptoms at first, regular screenings are highly encouraged. These screenings increase your likelihood of catching cancer early when it's easier to treat and cure.

Even though cancer is a general term referring to more than 200 different diseases, there are three common types to be aware of:

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for men and women. Usually, the result of smoking, lung cancer often shows no symptoms until it spreads. If you do have symptoms such as constant coughing, hoarseness, respiratory infections, or coughing up blood, please see your health care provider.

Breast cancer affects an estimated 1 in 8 U.S. women during their lifetime, making this the most common cancer found in women. Signs of breast cancer include developing a lump, breast pain, nipple discharge (other than breast milk, including blood), skin irritation, redness, swelling, or change in the size or shape of the breast.

Colorectal cancer is a common cancer for men and women in the U.S. It starts with a growth or polyp inside the colon or rectum and takes several years to develop into cancer. This makes colorectal cancer highly preventable. Although there are often no symptoms during the early stages, you should tell your doctor if you experience rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, changes in your bowel habits, or cramping.

Talk to your health care team today

Talk with your health care team about what screening tests are appropriate for you. If you have questions, send your VA health care team a Secure Message. To use Secure Messaging, you must have registered on My HealtheVet as a VA Patient and have a Premium account.

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Get Recommended Cancer Screening and Tests (National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention)

Updated October 12, 2022