How to Detect Cancer Without Symptoms?

Cancer Screening - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

Cancer screening can help detect certain types of cancer early on in people who have not yet shown symptoms. In this case, tumors can be managed with non-surgical or conservative treatment.

Risk Factors for Developing Cancer 

  • Age. As people age, they become more susceptible to the disease.
  • Gender. Several types of cancer only affect women, while others occur only in men. For example, cervical and uterine cancer or prostate cancer.
  • Family medical history. If there is more than one case of the same type of cancer in close blood relatives, you should plan your preventive medical screenings with your doctor.
  • Previous history of cancer. Even after treatment is complete, there is a chance that the disease may return. Doctors recommend dynamic monitoring in order to detect cancer recurrence and react in time.
  • Exposures to cancer-causing chemicals - for example, tobacco smoke, industrial carcinogens.

Decisions on screening studies should be based on the presence of these risk factors. However, the number of tests largely relies on the main ones - gender and age. 

Recommended Cancer Screening Tests

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast Cancer Screening - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

Breast cancer screening is usually performed through a mammogram (once every 2-3 years) for women 50-70 years of age. If mammogram results look suspicious, doctor may recommend a biopsy to test the tissue. 

What is Mammography? 

Mammography is a type of diagnostic test that consists of x-ray images of breast tissue captured in two projections using a special mammography machine. Mammography is able to detect very small tumors. Suspicious areas are often seen as opaque shadows.

Breast MRI

Breast MRIs are typically recommended for women at higher risk of developing breast cancer. This method of diagnosing breast cancer is used together with mammography.

Who Should Not Be Screened for Breast Cancer?

Breast exams are not recommended for those under age 50, especially if a woman does not have a hereditary pathogenic mutation that predisposes her to breast cancer (the presence of early-onset breast and ovarian cancer in several blood relatives). This is due to the fact that tumors are rare at this age, and the mammary gland has a structure that makes it difficult to detect cancer.

According to the USPSTF, women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have a mammogram every two years. However, patients age 50 or younger, women with a family history of breast cancer or breast lumps discovered during self-examination should talk with their doctors to determine the frequency of screenings.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical Cancer Screening - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

The main purpose of this study is the early detection of precancerous lesions in the cervix. These conditions precede oncology and can be successfully treated. Besides, screening can detect cancer at an early stage.

Cervical Cancer Screening Tests Include:

  • Pap smear. During a pelvic exam, the doctor collects a sample of cervical tissue for analysis in the laboratory. Women should start getting pap tests for cervical cancer screening at age 21.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Testing. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cells inside the cervix to turn into cancer. HPV testing is recommended every 5 years for women over 30.
  • Advanced colposcopy. Cervical screening tests sometimes include a colposcopy. This is a visual inspection technique that examines the walls of the cervical canal with a colposcope. Only the doctor decides whether there is a need for this examination.

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

  • HPV infection. HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause most cancers. These pathogens are mainly transmitted through sexual contact.
  • Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In some cases, chlamydia, genital herpes, cytomegalovirus, and HIV can increase the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Weakened immune system. Normally, the immune system recognizes and destroys abnormal cells that enter the body. The weakened immune system promotes the growth of cancer cells.
  • Trauma to the cervix. Surgical abortions, difficult delivery, and the curettage procedure can damage the mucous membrane of the cervix. There is a high risk of the spread of cancerous tissue during healing.
  • Hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalance may be the reason for cervical erosion.
  • Genetic predisposition. The risk of developing cancer may be increased if close blood relatives have already been diagnosed with cancer. 

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal Cancer - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

Colon cancer screening is aimed at the early detection of the disease or benign formations (polyps) that have not yet developed into cancer. The colon is a common site of cancer development that requires regular screening tests, even in the absence of symptoms. 

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer 

  • High intake of animal fat and fast carbohydrates in the diet.
  • Obesity and overweight.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Age. The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age, and the peak incidence occurs after the age of 70.
  • Low physical activity.
  • Genetic factors. The development of colorectal cancer can be influenced by certain congenital diseases.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests 

  • IFOBT is a fecal immunochemical test. It detects the presence of occult blood in the stool, which may be a sign of various inflammation processes. If the test shows blood in the stool, the doctor may suggest further testing.
  • Colonoscopy. This is a procedure that examines the inner layer (mucosa) of the colon. The results of colonoscopy allow direct mucosal inspection of the colon, evaluate its patency, the severity of inflammatory changes, and detect the presence of tumors. Besides, this procedure provides material for cytological and histological examination that help doctors to make the correct diagnosis and determine the appropriate course of treatment. The examination involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube fitted with a light source and a camera) into the patient's rectum.

Lung Cancer Screening

Lung Cancer - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

This process is used to detect tumors in the lungs before they become large and potentially life-threatening. 

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

  • age 55 or older
  • smokers who have a smoking history of 30 or more years
  • people who had quit smoking more than 15 years ago
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • family history of lung cancer

Any person who meets at least one of the above criteria should undergo preventive examinations once a year. Smoking causes around 8 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer. Second-hand smoke has also been confirmed as a cause of lung cancer. It is responsible for 1 in 5 cases of the disease. All other causes account for 20% of the total number of lung cancer patients. 

Lung Cancer Screening Method

A CT scan provides a series of detailed images of the chest as the CT scanner rotates around the body. A computer then combines the images to create three-dimensional pictures of the organs. The doctor examines them to detect the presence of growths in the lung (lung nodules) and other changes.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate Cancer - Lake Conway Primary Care Clinic

Screening for prostate cancer involves regularly measuring the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. This test is recommended for men between the ages of 50 and 75 years.

When the PSA level rises to a certain threshold (the traditional cutoff for abnormal level is 4 ng/ml), patients should undergo transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy. During a biopsy, pieces of tissue are removed from the prostate to be examined under a microscope. The aim of a biopsy is to detect signs of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer screening should not be performed in men younger than 40 years of age since the disease is rarely diagnosed in this age group. Men aged between 40 to 50 years also have a low risk of developing prostate cancer, except for those with an inherited predisposition. Therefore, screening should be done for men with a family history of prostate cancer. 

Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer

Palpation of the prostate (via the rectum). Unfortunately, this simple method can only detect large tumors that are often not amenable to radical treatment.
PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) is a tumor marker for prostate cancer. PSA is a protein that is produced only by the prostate gland. Normally, healthy men have a small amount of PSA in their blood. However, larger amounts of PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer.

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