In most cases, the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the greater your chances for a full recovery. That's why it's important to know how cancer is detected. One of the most effective ways is by simply scheduling regular medical check-ups with your doctor, who may be able to detect abnormalities with routine tests.
Also ask your doctor about your cancer risk, which could be based on age, medical history, lifestyle, family history and a host of other factors.
There are a number of simple, effective exams that can help you detect cancer early. Here are a few of the most common:
Breast self-exams and testicular self-exams have both been proven effective as methods of early-detection. Women should examine their breasts for changes or abnormalities at least once a month. And men, especially those 15-34 years of age, should examine themselves regularly also. Men in this age group are most likely to get testicular cancer, which is often first detected by the men themselves. Both types of cancer are treated much more effectively if detection is early.
Several types of exams administered by physicians are also important tools in detecting cancer. These exams include pap smear; digital rectal, breast, testicular, skin, thyroid, lymph node and oral exams. For people age 20 or older, health exams including cancer-related checkups and health counseling should be scheduled regularly.
If it's suspected that you have cancer, your doctor may order certain laboratory tests, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA), Complete Blood Count (CBC), Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, urine test or stool test to help guide the diagnosis. Results from these tests can provide doctors with information about the health of a number of systems in your body, and will help them determine if cancer is present.
At EIRMC, we possess a full set of diagnostic imaging tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT) scan, and digital mammography, which we can use to detect cancer at its earliest stages. These tools help us locate and diagnose abnormalities in tissues in various tissues and organs of the body. The can also track the progression of diseased tissue that may already be present, and the effectiveness of treatment that may be under way.
If preliminary screening tests indicate that a patient may have cancer, a biopsy may be ordered to make a higher-level assessment. A small amount of tissue from the suspected area is removed and sent to a lab where's it's checked for cancer cells. At EIRMC, we're able to administer several types of biopsy testing, including: plain biopsy, CT-guided biopsy, and stereotactic breast biopsy, just to name a few.
When less invasive methods fail to provide adequate information about suspected cancerous tissues, surgery may be called for. Most often surgery is employed when physicians need to inspect areas inside the chest or abdomen. Doctors are able to get a first-hand look at the areas in question, and biopsies can then be taken from any suspected tumors and from nearby tissues. These rare instances are considered major surgery, and are therefore avoided if at all possible.