For almost all cancers, the treatment options and survival chances are related to the stage of Cancer. It is always obvious that early detection of cancer at an earlier stage might have assured better outcomes.
Generally, Cancers are grouped into stages 0, I, II, III, and IV. Unfortunately in India majority of the cancers are detected and treatment is soght after in the advanced stages.
Early detection of cancer
Early detection of cancer undoubtedly increases the chances for successful treatment or complete cure. It’s important to recognise the possible warning signs of cancer and consult an expert.
Early signs of cancer may include –
- Lumps anywhere on the body
- Sores that fail to heal
- Abnormal bleeding
- Persistent indigestion
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Chronic hoarseness.
Early diagnosis is very much relevant for cancers of the breast, cervix, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum and skin.
It should be also understood that some individuals are known to be at high risk for cancer, such as those with a personal history of cancer or a strong family history of cancer (in two or more first-degree relatives).
Screening is a very important tool to identify individuals who have cancer. This helps in early stage detection aiding timely treatment.
Examples include breast cancer screening using mammography and cervical cancer screening using cytology screening methods, including PAP Smears.
Taking the evidences in account so far, screening can be applied for breast and cervical cancer using same screening mammography and Pap Smear cytology screening respectively.
Breast Cancer – Prevention and Control
The only breast cancer screening method that has proved to be effective so far is mammography/breast ultrasound screening. Self examination training has also helped many women in early detection.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
The Pap smear is the best test that has been used to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality. Other tests (VIA, VILI, HPV) tests can be used for the same purpose.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Evidences suggest that sigmoidoscopy may be effective for colorectal cancer screening. Several trials suggest that annual FOBTs reduces mortality from colorectal cancer.
Screening for Oral Cancer
Early detection of oral cancer using visual inspection of the mouth is the best screening test. The oral cavity is easily accessible for routine examination, and even non- medical personnel can readily detect lesions that are the precursors of carcinoma.
It is best to be prepared, ready and informed about any present or foreseen abnormality suggesting cancer.