Prevention and Early Detection of Cancer

It’s possibly one’s worst nightmare: hearing the news that either you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer.

And whilst the news may send you into a state of shock, early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Indeed, certain types of cancer can be prevented and with lifestyle changes, early detection and regular screenings your chances of living a cancer-free life greatly improve.

Screening for Cancer

Essentially, early detection of cancer could mean the difference between death and survival. Annual medicals may be able to detect early cancers and certain medical deviations compared with previous medical assessments may also assist in earlier diagnosis. For many cancers, such as breast or colon cancer, early detection could ensure that treatment is more effective and less harsh on the body. And even if there is an absence of symptoms, simple tests or screens enable doctors and specialists to detect cancer before it becomes life-threatening.

Screening devices and procedures include the following:

  • Breast cancer screening using mammography.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test to detect prostate cancer.
  • Cervical cancer screening using cytology screening methods, including Pap smears.
  • Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy to detect colon cancer; these procedures involve your doctor using a thin tube with a tiny video camera on the end to look inside your colon and rectum. Whilst a colonoscopy lets your doctor see those entire areas, he can only examine part of the colon with a sigmoidoscopy.
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) looks for blood in your bowel movement, which could be a sign of a polyp or cancer.

Recognising the Early Signs of Cancer

If you notice any changes in your body or anything that could potentially be a symptom of cancer, see your doctor immediately. As mentioned earlier, the disease is a lot easier to treat when detected early. So how do you know what signs to look out for and how do you know whether something isn’t quite right?

There are several warning signs that could save your life:

  1. Appetite loss is a symptom of cancer and certain cancers such as stomach, pancreatic, colon and ovarian put pressure on your stomach, making you feel too full to eat.
  2. Blood in your stool often indicates that there could be cancer somewhere in your GI tract, meaning your esophagus, stomach or intestines.
  3. Blood in your urine indicates a problem in your urinary tract, which could point to kidney or bladder cancer.
  4. A persistent cough is a potential symptom of lung cancer and if you’re a smoker, you need to see your doctor immediately.
  5. Extreme fatigue is one of the most common cancer symptoms; we’re not talking about a normal tiredness but rather an overwhelming exhaustion that endures.
  6. Persistent fever that lasts for more than a few days could indicate certain cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia and kidney and liver cancers.
  7. Lump in the neck or breast could indicate mouth, throat, thyroid, larynx or breast cancer. As cancerous lumps don’t usually hurt, see your doctor immediately if a lump is detected.
  8. Skin changes such as a sore that doesn’t heal or a raised mole are telltale signs of skin cancer.
  9. Swollen lymph nodes in the side of your neck could indicate lymphoma or leukemia.
  10. Weight loss without any cause could indicate cancer; up to 40% of people who are diagnosed with cancer have unexplained weight loss.

Prevention: What Really Works?

So is it possible to prevent this dreaded disease and if so, how can one do so? Avoiding the use of tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, ensuring that your diet is well-balanced and including physical activity into your daily life are some of the factors that can substantially reduce a person’s risk of developing cancer. And don’t neglect to go for regular screening tests, as these can not only prevent the development of cancer but can diagnose the initial stages of cancer making it easier to treat.

Published on June 27, 2017