CANCER PREVENTION AND SCREENING TESTS
Cancer is the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells. Cancer refers to a wide variety of diseases which can occur in any part of the body. Cancer can be both benign or malignant. Benign form of cancer does not invade other structure and malignant cancer spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
Remarkable progress has been made in cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment. The aim of cancer prevention is to lower the risk of spread of cancer. It can be achieved by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting regular cancer screening tests and getting preventive vaccinations. Cancer prevention is the most cost -effective strategy. The following steps should be followed for cancer prevention;
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being physically active helps in avoiding the risk factors for cancer. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and limiting the consumption of processed meat and unhealthy food can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Being physically active and keeping the weight in check helps in reducing the risk of breast, lung and colon cancer. Regular physical activity along with a healthy diet can lower the risk of certain cancers like breast, colon, kidney and endometrial cancer.
- Tobacco is one of the main causes of cancer. Smoking as well as consuming tobacco in other forms can lead to cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, throat, and other parts of the body. Tobacco has many carcinogens which damage the DNA and results in cancer. Quitting smoking and use of smokeless tobacco drastically reduces the risk of cancer. People who get exposed to second-hand smoke especially children are also at a high risk of developing cancer. Avoiding such environment is important to avoid the risk of cancer.
- Alcohol consumption also contributes towards the development of cancer. The amount of alcohol consumed and the duration of its consumption increases the risk of lung, kidney and colon cancer. Alcohol contains chemicals which interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients like folate and vitamins A, C, D and E. It also breaks down estrogen and increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Cancer prevention usually requires cutting down on the amount of drinking and consulting a doctor if any medical or hormonal treatment is being received.
- Skin cancer is another common type of cancer which is caused due to regular exposure to strong sunlight. It can be prevented by avoiding exposure to sun during the day when the sunlight is strongest. Wearing sunglasses and hats can prevent sun exposure. Using sunscreen with adequate SPF is recommended. Artificial tanning can also increase the risk of cancer so these should be avoided.
- Practicing safe sex can prevent the the spread of certain infections like HPV and HIV which can increase the risk of developing cancer.
- HPV can lead to cervical and genital cancers. It can be prevented by vaccination. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of liver cancer and can be prevented by vaccination . Getting vaccinated can help in cancer prevention. Virus- associated cancers can be prevented by regular check-ups and required vaccination.
- Pollutants in water, soil and the environment can act as carcinogens. Radiation also causes cancer. Avoiding unnecessary exposure to industrial, environmental pollutants and radiation is important for cancer prevention.
- Regular self- examination and cancer screening tests are the most important part of cancer prevention. Early diagnosis can help in successful treatment of cancer and increase the rate of survival. It also reduces the treatment cost.
Cancer screening is important for early detection of cancer. It helps in the detection of cancer even before the appearance of symptoms. Regular cancer check-up should by done by a doctor who performs a physical examination and also records the family history and the symptoms.
A cancer check is performed by the doctor and further cancer check-up plans and cancer screening tests are recommended. The cancer check-up cost and the cancer screening cost can also be decided at this point. The usual cancer screening tests recommended by the doctor are:
- Breast cancer screening tests- a self- breast examination is recommended. If any changes are seen or felt in the breast, the doctor must be consulted. Clinical examination is done to look for any abnormalities. X-ray of the breasts known as mammography is done which helps in finding out any tumors or irregularities in the breast. MRI can also be done.
- Cervical cancer screening- a PAP smear is done to find precancerous or cancerous cells in the tissues outside the cervix in women. HPV testing is also done. Both are done by scraping tissues from outside the cervix and laboratory examination of the smear.
- Lung cancer screening- CAT scan is used as a screening test to find any tumors or abnormalities in the lungs.
- Skin cancer screening- Clinical examination and dermoscopy is done.
- Colon cancer screening- colonoscopy is done.
- Prostrate cancer screening- digital rectal examination is done.
Head and neck cancer screening- clinical examination is done.