Cancer Screening

Disclaimer: The following information pages are provided for educational purposes only. They are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss them with your doctor or healthcare provider.

What is Cancer?

Your body is made of many cells. Normally cells grow, divide and die on a cycle. However, sometimes abnormal cells grow and divide even when they are not supposed to, and they become tumours (clumps of cells) in the body. Tumours can be benign (non cancer), pre-malignant (pre-cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Cancerous tumours can invade into different parts of the body.

The general term “cancer” describes the condition in which cells grow and divide abnormally and invade healthy parts of the body. There are over 100 different types of cancer, depending on the origin of the abnormal cells.

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What Cause Cancer?

The following provides examples but is not a complete list of the causes of cancer.

  • Environmental factors
    • Ultraviolet radiation (the sun, tanning beds) can contribute to skin cancer
    • Cigarette smoke can contribute to lung cancer
  • Infections
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV) can contribute to cervical cancer
  • Diet and activities
    • Being obese increases a person’s risk of getting certain types of cancers

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What is Cancer Screening?

Cancer Screening is a way to pick up certain cancers or early- stage tumours before you have symptoms of the disease. Some cancers are easier to treat when they are discovered early. In cervical, breast, and colon cancers, patients have a much better chance of being cured if their tumours are still small or pre-cancerous. For more information, please visit the Get Checked for Cancer page of Cancer Care Ontario.

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When should Screening Take Place?

The cancer screening schedule recommendation for 22q patients is the same as those for the general population. For some people, the cancer screening schedule may be different because of their personal or family medical history. Please ask your doctor for more information.

Cancer Screening Guidelines for Ontario Residents

Cervical cancer screening

  • Once every 3 years for women aged 21 to 70
Colon cancer screening
  • Once every 2 years for men and women starting from age 50
  • Earlier if you have a family history of the cancer - Check with your doctor
Breast cancer screening
  • Once every 2 years for women aged 50 to 74
  • Screening starts earlier and takes place every year for women with higher risks - Check with your doctor

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Cancer Screening in Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Patients who need to go through cancer screening must first agree to it. That is, they must give consent, which can be difficult in the cases of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Women may feel too embarrassed or anxious to agree to a PAP test (for cervical cancer screening) or mammography (for breast cancer screening). In particular, the PAP test is meant for women who have been sexually active. Women with IDD may not be able to (or do not wish to) tell doctors about their sexual history. It is important for caregivers and doctors to work together to help patients understand the importance of providing truthful information and getting cancer screening done. If you are a caregiver and would like help with this, please book an appointment to see one of the doctors in the Dalglish Family 22q Clinic.

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