Timely detection hugely increases the chances for successful treatment and longevity.
Two major components for early detection of cancer are
- Education and awareness to promote early diagnosis and
- Screening tests to detect them early
Education and awareness
This is the key to early detection of disease. Recognizing the possible alarming and warning signs and taking prompt action against them leads to early diagnosis. Increased awareness among general public and even caregivers can have a great impact on the overall rate of detection rate of the disease.
Some early signs and symptoms of cancer include newly formed lumps, sores that fail to heal, persistent indigestion, abnormal bleeding and chronic hoarseness of voice. Early diagnosis is particularly relevant for cancers of the cervix, breast, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum and skin.
Screening refers to simple tests to identify individuals who have the disease, but do not show symptoms yet. For example breast cancer screening is done using mammography and cervical cancer screening by taking a Pap smears.
There are various kinds of screening tests.
- Physical exam and history: A visual exam of the body to check general signs of health and disease, such as any new growth or lumps. A history of the patient’s present health status, past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
- Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of urine, tissue or other substances in the body like Pap smear for cervical cancer, a biopsy from an abnormal growth, or stool test for occult blood in colon cancers .
- Diagnostic procedures: Like sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy for colon cancer
- Imaging procedures: Medical procedures that take pictures of areas inside the body like ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan or MRI.
- Genetic tests: Tests that look for c gene mutations(changes) that could be linked to certain cancer. It is also known as gene testing or genome testing.
The goal of creating awareness among people and encouraging them to take screening test is to reduce the number of cancer cases, illness, disability and deaths caused by the disease.
Preventive health checkups play an important role in finding unidentified such cases. Most of the cases get diagnosed through such regular health checkups and get successfully treated.