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Patient Education and Support

Know what to look for with
cancer and the importance of

General signs and symptoms of cancer

Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue.

Cancer often has the ability to spread throughout your body. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening, treatment and prevention.

It is important to be aware of signs and symptoms of cancer. Although the presence of the following signs and symptoms does not mean you have cancer, see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms that persist or get worse.


  • Fatigue
  • Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
  • Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
  • Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Persistent cough or trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
  • Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
  • Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Breast changes
  • Trouble swallowing or loss of appetite
  • Unusual weakness or gait

When to see a doctor

If you have any of these signs or symptoms that concern you, make an appointment with your doctor. Ask about which cancer screenings and procedures are appropriate for you.

If you notice any changes in your body or the way you feel, let a doctor know. It may not be cancer, but it may be something that you need treatment for. If it is cancer, early detection provides the best chance of a cure.

Cancer won’t wait.

Resume Screening & Treatment

Cancer Prevention

Reducing Your Risk
The cancer prevention specialists at the Cancer Center want to help you reduce your risk of developing cancer. To support that goal, we offer these tips, which are founded on scientific research supported by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). We encourage you to talk with your doctor for more specific recommendations on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and for more detailed guidelines for cancer screenings that may be right for you.

Lifestyle choices are responsible for an estimated 45 percent of cancer deaths in the United States. The following are some lifestyle choices that can reduce the risk of cancer.


  • Eat at least 5 to 9 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. Choose dark green and deep yellow vegetables, and colorful fruits (citrus, berries, melons, mangos and papaya).

  • Choose at least 2 whole-grain servings daily (whole wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn).

  • Choose at least 1 serving daily of beans (lentils, split peas, and pinto, garbanzo, black and navy beans).

  • Choose healthy dietary fats, found in nuts, olive oil, canola oil and avocado. Limit saturated fat, found in red meat and regular dairy foods.


  • Exercise most days of the week.Regular exercise is linked to a lower risk of cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start out slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes or longer.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of cancer. Work to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise.


  • If you smoke, you need to quit. To get help, join our Smoking Cessation program here at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. If you haven’t smoked for awhile, avoid temptations that may lead you to start again. Smoking causes about 30 percent of all U.S. deaths from cancer.

  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Establish a smoke-free home.

  • Don’t chew tobacco.


  • Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.


  • Limit exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is strongest.

  • Wear sun-protective clothing.

  • Wear sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Wear at least SPF15, all day, even on cloudy days.


  • Avoid exposure to environmental chemicals known to cause cancer, such as radon and benzene. Have your home tested for radon, an odorless gas released from rocks and soil that enters homes through cracks in the foundation. Benzene is a natural part of gasoline and cigarette smoke; exposure comes from inhaling air that contains it, so avoid smoking, secondhand smoke and vapors from heavy traffic and gas stations as much as possible.

Cancer Screenings

A few cancers can be diagnosed with early screenings. For other cancers, studies show that screenings are recommended only for people with increased risk.

Diagnosing cancer at its earliest stages often provides the best chance for a cure.

A variety of medical organizations and patient-advocacy groups have recommendations and guidelines for cancer screening. Review the various guidelines with your doctor and together you can determine what's best for you based on your own risk factors for cancer.

With this in mind, talk with your doctor about what types of cancer screening may be appropriate for you.


  • Breast self-exam monthly starting at age 20

  • Clinical breast exam every three years starting at age 20 and annually starting at age 40

  • Mammogram annually, starting at age 40


  • Pap smear and pelvic exam every three years, starting at age 21.

  • HPV test and Pap smear every 5 years, or Pap smear alone every 3 years – ages 30-65 (Preferred)


  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) annually starting at age 45

  • Positive stool test requires follow-up colonoscopy


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women worldwide. Nearly 160,000 Americans die of lung cancer each year. Lung cancer ranks number one overall cases in Tennessee.

Screening for lung cancer is important so that issues may be caught earlier and treated while it is in the most curable stages. Based on the findings of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), we know that CT lung screening can now save lives of people at high risk for developing lung cancer. Low-dose CT (LDCT) lung screening is quick and easy and results in minimal amount of radiation exposure.

Most insurances, including Medicare, are now covering the lung screening.

Cookeville Regional Medical Center is determined to raise awareness and improve access to this testing for all people at high risk. Therefore, we are currently offering LDCT lung screening to individuals who meet the established high-risk criteria at an affordable price ($99).

See if you qualify by reviewing the lung-screening questionnaire here.

You may qualify for a LDCT lung screening at Cookeville Regional Medical Center if you meet the criteria listed below.


  • You are between 50 and 77 years old

  • Are currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years, and

  • Have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 + years


To be scheduled for the screening, you will need to meet the above criteria to qualify.

Talk with your primary care provider to see if you qualify. You will need to fill out the screening questionnaire form, and your physician or other primary care provider will be required to fill out and sign the screening questionnaire and order form. To expedite the process, you may take the completed questionnaire and order form to your provider, who will then complete it to be sent to Cookeville Regional when scheduling the low-dose CT scan.

Cookeville Regional will file your insurance. Many commercial insurances as well as Medicare Part B cover the cost of the scan once per year for patients who qualify. Because insurance may require a pre-authorization, it may be several days before your scan is scheduled, but we will work with you and your provider to schedule it as quickly and conveniently as possible.

If your insurance does not cover the screening or if you do not have insurance, the cost will be $99.

If you do not have a primary care provider, we will assist you in locating one.

If you have questions, please call the lung nurse navigator at 931-783-4996.

Early detection saves lives!

Lung Cancer Screening Brochure


  • Age 45-75 years for average-risk patients OR

  • Age 40-75 years for those with African ancestry, Germline mutations that increase the risk for prostate cancer

  • Suspicious family history


  • During your regular checkup, ask the dentist to check your mouth and gums.

  • Avoid tobacco products

Stay up-to-date on screening

Screening Overview