Cancer is a genetic disease that can occur in almost any part of the body at any given point in your life. The disease occurs at different stages and is most curable in its initial stages. This is primarily why diagnoses of cancers at an early stage is important. It is generally during this period that the tumor is still small and may not have spread to other areas of the body.
What is cancer screening?
Early diagnosis of the disease is different from diagnosis via. cancer screening. Early diagnosis of cancer in a patient may be due to the appearance of certain early symptoms. But screenings are generally opted for by patients who have no medical history or any pre-existing symptoms. Screening for cancer is suitable for patients who are at a higher risk or more susceptible to the disease because of age, family history of cancer etc.
Cancer screening is generally done through various tests, imaging, and other examinations. A cancer screening program generally entails not only the testing and diagnosis of the condition, but also includes identifying the target population and offering possible treatment options in case of early diagnosis of the condition.
Almost all cancers can today be detected with absolute precision through the study of the DNA markers.
Encouraging people to undergo cancer screening early
The most effective way to make people aware of the benefits of early screening is to spread more awareness about the significance of detection of cancer in the initial stages. Early detection increases the chances of survival and early screening helps detect the tumour while it is still small and thus can be removed surgically or through radiation therapy. Early detection also helps identify the tumour before it spreads to other parts of the body and stop the tumour from causing other medical problems and conditions which require complicated treatment.
To encourage people to opt for screenings they need to understand that fearing the disease will not make it go away. Instead, detecting it by knowing the warning signs will increase your chances of fighting the condition. Early diagnosis of cancers of the mouth, breast, colon, skin, cervix etc. go a long way in effectively treating the disease.
Sometimes a harmless lump or something as common as feeling easily tired may imply a condition as serious as cancer. If you are prompt in acting and identifying the condition early on, then the chances of a successful treatment go up significantly. Thus, do not ignore sores that do not heal quickly, painful bumps and warts, constant indigestion, and other recurring medical conditions
Recommended Cancer Screening Tests
With advancements in technology and research, the cancer screening tests have proved effective in diagnosing cancer of various organs with ease. Some of the recommended cancer screening tests includes:
- Screening mammography – Aprocess of diagnosing and screening breast cancer using low-energy X-rays to examine the human breast.
- Pap tests – A procedure to diagnose cervical cancer or precancerous cells in the colon or the cervix. It is conduced by gently removing and examining the cells from the surface of the cervix and the area around it to identify the potential cancerous cells, which might progress to cause cervical cancer.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) tests –The tests are conducted along with pap tests and follow the same procedure. The tests predominately focus on identifying Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that might cause cervical cancer or other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus.
- Colonoscopy – It is a test that examines swollen, irritated tissues, polyps, or cancer in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The examination includes a long tube connected with a micro-lens that is inserted into the rectum to identify the cancer-causing cells or tumours.
- Low-dose Computed Tomography (LDCT)– It is a type of radiographic scan that uses x-ray technology to create internal images of the chest. The LDCT of the chest is effective in diagnosing lung cancer at the earliest.
Early Cancer Screening and Imaging procedures
Simple yet efficient tests and imaging procedures help screen for cancer. Other types of tests include —
- Physical examination – A physical check-up is the first step in a screening where the general health and medical history of the patient is established. This is when the doctor checks for the obvious signs of lumps or other conditions on the body.
- Lab Tests – Blood tests and examination of urine or tissue samples are also commonly done during screenings to establish the overall health of the patient.
- Diagnostic tests – These are more specific tests and are done if a specific type of cancer is suspected. For instance, a colonoscopy to diagnose colon cancer or a mammography to check for breast cancer.
- Imaging tests – Ultrasound, X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans may be recommended to study detailed pictures of certain parts of the body.
- Gene tests – Gene testing is generally done to examine and study gene mutations that may be directly related to the occurrence of a certain type of cancer on the medical history of a patient and their family. This not only helps treat the patient,
but also prevent the occurrence of cancer in future generations.
There are several early cancer screening programs that are being done today to bring down the mortality rate. A simple search on the Internet or a word with your general physician will help you identify the screening that is best suited to your symptoms if you have any or your age. Early detection is the best way to effectively treat the condition and live a longer healthier life.
Dr. Vijaya Aditya Yadaraju, Radiation Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre Vizag.