Alternative Cancer Screenings: Another Way to Monitor Your Health -- By Conner Keyeski, APRN

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, only trailing heart disease. Cancer screenings, along with annual physical exams and self-exams, are useful tools to help identify pre-cancerous and early-stage cancers. Many people are reluctant to have these screening tests performed due to their invasive nature. Although mammograms, Pap smears, and colonoscopies are gold standard screening tools for several cancers, people can use some alternatives in certain situations.

Thermography uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in various tissues of the body and provides an image of the temperature variations. The principle behind thermography is that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in pre-cancerous and cancerous tissue are higher than in surrounding healthy tissue. Thermography can be a screening tool for breast cancer, but it does not replace a mammogram for diagnosis.

Cologuard is a non-invasive, at-home colon cancer screening test that detects cancer DNA markers and blood in the stool. Cologuard can be a first step colon cancer screening tool option for low-risk individuals who may have reservations about colonoscopies.

Pap smears are recommended every three years for cervical cancer screening, and HPV testing is recommended every five years. An alternative recommendation for women aged 21-65 is to have Pap smear-HPV co-testing every five years.

As a Holistic Primary Care Nurse Practitioner at Atma Clinic, I make recommendations for s