Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives

Rabia Cattie, MD is a Hematologist/Oncologist at St. Charles Parish Hospital.

Should you get cancer screenings? The answer is YES! As an oncologist, I can assure you that early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful therapies, including curative treatments. It is so important that as we age, we get regular screenings for cancer. Although we don’t know the causes and risk factors for every kind of cancer, certain types have increased risk, making these tests very important. 



Breast cancer accounts for about 30 percent of all cancer diagnoses in women (approx. 270,000 cases annually). It is recommended that all women should have an annual mammogram starting at age 40 to check for breast cancer. Some women may want to be screened earlier depending on family or medical history. Women should also familiarize themselves with how their breasts look and feel. Always let your doctor know if you ever notice any changes in your breasts.


The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. Women should begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21. You should also have a Pap test every three to five years, along with an HPV test. This can help find cervical cell changes before they become cancer. If you have had the HPV vaccine, you should still have routine tests. Women with a higher risk of cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Most women will not have any symptoms, so it is important to have routine screenings.


Colon cancer accounts for about 8-10 percent of all cancer diagnoses (approx. 145,000 cases annually). People at average risk of colon cancer should start regular screenings at age 45. If you have a family history of colon cancer, screening should be initiated earlier. The primary screening for colon cancer is a colonoscopy, which should be done every 10 years, unless more frequent tests are suggested by your doctor. Another screening option is known as a FIT screen, an annual at-home screening test that checks for hidden blood in the stool. 


Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, so it is recommended that adults see a dermatologist annually for routine skin checks. You should always be familiar with all moles and spots on your skin. If you notice any changes, you should talk to your doctor right away. Things to look for include changes in size, color and symmetry in current moles or marks on your skin. 

In 2020, about 26,500 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Louisiana, which translates to about 72 new diagnoses every day. This year alone, there is estimated to be about 9,300 deaths statewide from the disease. Cancer screenings are still essential healthcare, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping up with routine health screenings is more important than ever. 

If you’ve missed an annual exam or routine screening, or if you’re having symptoms you are concerned about, you should contact your health care provider to get your appointments and screenings back on track. Prevention is key and early detection is vital.

Dr. Rabia Cattie received her undergraduate degree from Kinnaird College, Lahore and her medical degree from Allama Iqbal Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan. Following this, she completed an internship, residency and fellowship at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. She is board certified in Hematology and Oncology and has been on staff at Ochsner since January 2020 and practicing medicine since 2007. Dr. Cattie’s expertise is in solid tumors, especially breast cancer. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading.


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