As dreadful as the word may sound, cancer – a condition in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably causing damage to healthy body tissues, is very much treatable. Only and only if it is detected and diagnosed early. It has been observed that early detection and diagnosis of these cancers – breast, ovarian, lung, prostate, liver, cervical, colon, and rectal – can significantly amp up the survival rate and can lead to 100% recovery from the condition.
Delayed or inaccessible cancer detection or diagnosis results in a lower chance of survival, increasing treatment-related complications, and certainly, higher treatment costs. Early diagnosis not only enhances the chance of successful treatment but also improves cancer outcomes by offering care at the earliest possible stage. This is why early detection and diagnosis of cancer are considered to be an essential public health strategy.
The wonders of early diagnosis of cancer
Diagnosis at the wee stage meets two important objectives as it reduces the risk of getting diagnosed at a later stage when things usually go out of hand. First, it causes an increased awareness of the first signs of cancer among not just physicians, nurses, and the medical fraternity but also among common people. Second, it results in improved accessibility and affordability of diagnosis and treatment services and better referral from first to secondary and tertiary levels of care. It is crucial, especially for those in the high-risk group who regularly smoke, use tobacco/alcohol, or have a family history of cancer.
Signs and symptoms of cancer to watch out
These symptoms must not be ignored.
- Swelling or lumps anywhere in the body
- Weight loss or gain of 10 pounds or more for no known reason
- Eating problems such as not feeling hungry, trouble swallowing, belly pain, or nausea and vomiting
- Thickening or lump in the breast or other parts of the body
- Pain, especially new or with no known reason, that doesn’t go away or gets worse
- Skin changes such as a lump that bleeds or turns scaly, a new mole or a change in a mole, a sore that does not heal, or a yellowish colour to the skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Cough or hoarseness that does not go away
- Unusual bleeding or bruising for no known reason
- Change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, that doesn’t go away or a change in how your stools look
- Bladder changes such as pain when passing urine, blood in the urine, or needing to pass urine more or less often
- Fever or nights sweats
- Vision or hearing problems
- Mouth changes such as sores, bleeding, pain, or numbness
Importance of early diagnosis of cancer
Cancer doesn’t extensively spread at the early stages. Thus, when detected early, it is more likely to be treated successfully. Here’s why early cancer detection is important.
- Cancer, when spotted early, enhances the chances of survival.
- Diagnosing it before it has spread too far obviously increases the scope of treatment and reduces the risk of poor treatment outcomes.
- It can help an individual to identify any abnormalities in the body and seek immediate clinical help.
Benefits of early diagnosis
Early diagnosis of cancer ensures that common men are adequately sensitized to reach out to health professionals as soon as symptoms appear without being restricted by any sort of barriers – financial, logistical, or psychological. It enables the healthcare staff to react appropriately and promptly due to adequate training and clear referral guidelines. Early diagnosis makes sure that the treatment services are affordably and conveniently accessible and that they deliver services of optimal quality.
Ways of early cancer diagnosis
High-end technology has made early detection and diagnosis of cancer easy. There are several early diagnosis procedures.
Physical exam in which an oncologist feels areas in the body for lumps indicating cancer. During this procedure, certain abnormalities are checked like changes in skin color or enlargement of cancer, etc that may provide a hint of the presence of cancer.
Laboratory tests like that of the urine and blood may enable doctors to identify cancer-causing abnormalities.
Imaging tests like computerized tomography (CT) scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, ultrasound, X-ray, and more help doctors examine bones and internal organs in a non-invasive way.
Biopsy where the doctor collects a sample of cells for testing is considered to be the only way to definitively diagnose cancer. It could be done in various ways depending on the type of cancer one is tested for.
Being aware of the early signs of cancer and the advantages of early detection is essential in securing positive treatment outcomes. Cancer can be fought and won if diagnosed early.
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By: Dr. Vishal Rao, Director, Head Neck Surgical Oncology & Robotic Surgery, HCG Cancer Hospital, Bengaluru