Cancer is one of the most feared diagnosis that a patient can receive. However, patients should know that cancers are now highly treatable and some are preventable diseases. There are numerous key-screening tests available that each patient should receive periodically to screen for malignant cells inside the body.
It is important that each patient receive a physical exam by his or her primary care provider to check for abnormal lumps, bumps or lesions and to review history of illness. Physicians often recommend laboratory testing to check blood, urine and other bodily fluids that could be harboring abnormal cells. In addition to laboratory tests, biopsies are another way for physicians to test suspicious looking areas for cancerous tissue. Genetic testing is also done to see if there are any gene mutations present that could indicate higher risk of developing cancer. Among all of the screening procedures, imaging can be one of the most important methods of cancer detection. An imaging procedure shows pictures of vital organs and will often display any abnormalities. Screening examinations conducted regularly by a doctor can detect cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, testis, mouth, and skin at early stages.
Types of Screening Tests
After a physical examination, mammogram screening is recommended for women who are being checked for breast cancer. It is important that women between the ages of 40 and 70 have an annual mammogram to help detect possible abnormalities in breast tissue. This early detection is crucial in preventing cancer from spreading throughout breast and other body tissues.
Cervical cancer screenings are important for women twenty-one years of age or younger if sexually active. These women should talk to their physicians about a Pap smear screening. The Pap smear screening detects cervical cancer only, and does not detect ovarian cancer. Physicians advise that a woman should have a Pap smear screening performed, at minimum, once every three years.
Colorectal cancer is found by a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy provides a visualization of the large intestine and can help physicians see any masses, polyps or other abnormalities that could be cancerous. Physicians recommend that patients, both men and women, age fifty or older should get a colonoscopy every five to ten years.
The overall best ways to prevent cancer are to:
- Stay away from tobacco
- Exercise frequently and remain at a healthy weight
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limit alcohol intake
- Protect your skin
- Know family history and risks
Although these suggestions can help prevent some types of cancer, it is important that patients always follow their physicians’ recommendations for cancer screenings. These screenings help to detect cancer early and allow time to deliver live saving treatments.