Tests that detect cancer before the onset of symptoms
There are tests that can detect different types of malignancy just before the symptoms appear, making them easier to treat.
“Screening tests should be done periodically. They send alarm signals to people in apparent health, when the disease does not show clinical signs,” explains Alina Constantin, a family doctor.
1. BREAST CANCER
Early screenings offer great chances for healing in breast cancer. The smaller the cancerous tumour, the better the chances of success of an operation.
The most convenient test method is breast self-examination, but you can also use mammography, ultrasound or elastography. Medics recommend you begin testing at the age of 40.
“The risk factors and prerequisites for this cancer are: family history of breast cancer, lack of pregnancy and breastfeeding, hormone administration,” warns Doctor Alina Constantin.
2. COLORECTAL CANCER
Most colon cancers develop from colon polyps. For prevention, it’s important to detect and remove polyps before they turn into cancer. As a screening method, the occult bleeding test in the stool (the detection of blood in faeces), colonoscopy, which investigates the rectum and the entire colon with the colonoscope, as well as sigmoidoscopy, a method by which only part of the colon is seen.
“Colonoscopy is also useful for the detection of intestinal polyps, precancerous formations. These tests should be performed annually by women over the age of 50 who have a family history of digestive cancers, intestinal polyps, who have had anal bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease or frequent intestinal transit disorders,” the doctor recommends.
3. CERVICAL CANCER
In Romania, cervical cancer mortality rate is the highest in Europe, and screening tests are free of charge within a national program. The test is for women aged 20 to 65, sexually active. Women aged between 45 and 55 years old, with multiple pregnancies, who have started their sexual life before the age of 16, smokers, those using contraceptive pills, those with a history of sexually transmitted diseases, are at risk of developing cervical cancer. HPV tests and vaccination are effective methods of preventing this type of cancer.
4. PULMONARY CANCER
“Those who show coughing, chest pain, lack of air, severe asthenia, swallowing disorders, haemoptysis (the presence of blood in expectorated secretions), should go to the doctor. Also, those with obstructive pulmonary diseases, with frequent respiratory infections, those exposed to a polluted air environment, and especially smokers should undergo regular medical checks,” recommends Alina Constantin.
Tests for lung cancer are pulmonary X-ray, but also an MRI, a more expensive imaging method.
5. SKIN CANCER
Another type of cancer that affects women is skin cancer (melanoma). For some people, there is a genetic risk that favours the onset of the disease, and the danger increases proportionally with exposure to the sun.
For this cancer, go to the dermatologist if you have suspicious moles or spots (irregular, itchy).
The body of the male does not contain oestrogen, making it more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, but also different types of cancer. Screening tests help men detect various cancers and have an effective treatment chance.
“Screening has the role of discovering serious diseases at an early stage. Thus, the patient increases the chances of healing completely or being treated effectively with less money,” explains Remus Lupu, a family doctor.
Diseases detectable before the symptoms
Prostate cancer is one of the most common diseases among men. Screening can detect this type of cancer just before the symptoms occur, which makes treatment have a greater effect. Men should test for this disease from the age of 40. Two blood tests (PSA, prostate-specific antigen, and Free PSA) can be performed to detect prostate cancer. If changes occur, a consultation with the urologist is recommended.
“Prostate cancer has an increased incidence after the age of 45, and after 60, the risk is even greater,” says Remus Lupu, a physician.
Testicular problems can be detected primarily by palpation. If changes occur in the size of the testicles, it is advisable to go to the doctor, because this type of cancer occurs at any age. To begin with, imaging tests (testicular ultrasounds) can be performed, and if suspicious results are available, a biopsy can be performed. Studies show that men are more prone to colorectal cancer than women, with symptoms occurring as early as 40 years.
For colon cancer, the recommended screenings are sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Sigmoidoscopy is a short colonoscopy examination that can last 20 minutes, limited to one-third of the colon. Doctors use this procedure to find the causes for abdominal pain or constipation, but also to look for early signs of colon and rectal cancer. Colonoscopy involves the use of an instrument that is inserted into the colon, visualizing the intestine through the inside.
Double risk of skin cancer in men
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma, and men are twice as likely to have this disease as women.
“Skin cancer can occur at any age, anywhere the body is exposed to the sun. That’s why people with uneven, raised moles, with different colours, have to go to the dermatologist to assess the risk of skin cancer,” Dr. Remus Lupu recommends.