What you need to know about:

Cancer Screening

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Overview of

Cancer Screening

in Thailand

Every year, millions of people pass away as a result of complications related to cancer, a figure that justifies the World Health Organization designating cancer as the leading cause of death worldwide. As we do not yet have a cure to this goliath of a medical challenge, the current best way to prevent cancer is to detect it as early as possible. Hence, cancer screening is encouraged for those who are within the range of risk.

It’s important to remember that the processes involved are different for each type of cancer. General blood results may indicate cancerous cells somewhere in the body, and checking your family history will provide attending physicians with a clearer idea of what to look for, but as more symptoms and patterns emerge, your attending physician will begin to refine their search to more specific areas, requiring specialized techniques and tests. 

Regardless, the first step of any cancer screening is identifying the symptoms that prompted enough concern to require screening at all. These usually present themselves in the form of abnormal blood test results, the presence of unexplained lumps, or even as part of a checkup recommended based on family history.  

Following these are more thorough laboratory tests. They require taking blood, tissue, urine, or samples of other bodily fluids. You may also be recommended to receive various types of imaging tests, either by X-Rays, MRI, or CT scanning. Finally, genetic testing may be conducted to analyze your genes, and to look for any abnormalities or indicators of cancer.

From here on out, we’re going to take a look at the most common cancer screenings and give you a brief overview of the procedures involved.

Goals of

Cancer Screening

Having a loose understanding of how and when screening is conducted is a very good start, but many people will not go through with it if they don't understand its goals and benefits. 

That said, let's take a look at what the goals of cancer screening actually are:

Typing

The first goal of any type of cancer screening is to determine the type of cancer that is present. Once the symptoms have been shown, the physician will begin trying to narrow down the type of cancer, which may require several different forms of screening.

Treatments

Determining which type of cancer is present in your body or if cancer is there at all helps the physicians and yourself to work together to create a treatment plan.

Prevention

Even if there aren't many symptoms present, it's always good to begin doing consistent and regularly scheduled screenings at the recommended ages. This could help in the necessary preventative measures to keep you happy and healthy.

Early Detection

It's not about prevention, it is about early detection. Early detection significantly increases chances of cancer survival. 

Diagnosing symptoms

You may think about doing screenings once you begin to exhibit certain symptoms. Symptoms that may be cause for concern include fatigue to soreness in certain areas, extending to more vital things like organs not performing properly. 

When these symptoms are present, you and your physician will lay out a plan that screens for diseases that impose the most risk. Most of the time, cancer screenings will be included.

Determining stages 

Sometimes, cancer screening is required even when you have already been diagnosed with cancer. This is done in order to determine the current stage of your given type of cancer, as each stage involves different levels of severity and types of treatment. 

Risk Factors

If you have had cancer or have a history of cancer in your family, you may be prime with risk factors. On top of this, other risk factors can include smoking, poor health, and also substance abuse. If someone has these risk factors, the doctor may feel it necessary to ensure that there is no cancer present.

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Cancer Screening

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Pros and cons of

Cancer Screening

Pros

The fact is, screening increases your chances of survival by a significant amount, and allows you and your physician to take preventative measures to stop cancer before it’s had a chance to progress. These processes can also identify potential risks that could turn into cancer later on down the road.

Cons

Cancer screening isn’t 100% accurate, and can still produce false negatives or false positives that mislead patients and result in extremely harmful consequences. 

Certain procedures, especially those that require deep tissue or fluid samples such as spinal fluid, or tissue samples from organs, can also result in side effects, including but not limited to pain, infection, and irritation.

How it works:

Cancer Screening

Types of Cancer Screening & How it Works

Listed below are cancer screenings for some of the most common type of cancer as well as brief descriptions on how the screening process for each kind is performed.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is typically offered to women, transgender men, and some non-binary individuals. In particular areas of the world, this is offered between the ages of 50 and 70

The use of mammography is involved in breast cancer screenings. This X-ray machine takes images of the breasts to see if there are any notable masses present.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is another screening offered to women and other individuals like transgender men and nonbinary men. Cervical screening is usually suggested for those between the ages of 25 and 60.

Cervical cancer screening is done with a pap smear test. This is where a doctor takes an instrument called a speculum and places it inside your vaginal cavity to collect cells and mucus that can then be sent to a laboratory for tests.

Bowel (Colorectal) Screening

Typically bowel screening is offered to individuals from 50 to 74, depending on where you are located.

This type of cancer screening utilizes a flexible tube that is affixed with a light called a colonoscopy. It is inserted into the rectum and runs through the colon, and can help physicians detect any polyps or other signs of cancer.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer is recommended from 45 for men globally.

Prostate cancer screening through the execution of a digital rectal examination (DRE). This is a test where a doctor inserts their fingers inside the rectum. Using fingers is required to be able to determine irregularities. 

Lung Cancer Screening

Most medical professionals suggest this type of screening between the ages of 50 - 80, especially if the individual is a smoker. For those that aren't, it may still be required as secondhand smoking remains a significant concern. 

There is one recommended test for lung cancer, and that is a low-dose computed tomography test. This is a CT scan where you are placed into a machine that uses low-dose radiation to take X-rays.

Pancreatic Cancer Screening

When it comes to pancreatic cancer, there are two different schools of thought on when is the right time to get screened. Most professionals will say between 40 and 50 years of age, but if there is a history of pancreatic cancer in the family, they may suggest getting checked 10 to 15 years before the age your family members were diagnosed with it. 

Pancreatic cancer is screened by using an endoscopy ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests tend to be only ordered when there is a clear history of pancreatic cancer observed in the family.

Preparation before

Cancer Screening

Pre - treatment

The preparations involved for cancer screening depends on the type of test you are taking. For instance, if you are screening for breast cancer, there is not much preparation necessary. 

On the other hand, if you are screening for colorectal cancer, you will be asked to eat low-fiber foods for several days before the test and will have to drink plenty of water.

Many of the tests will require one to ensure that they don't eat for a certain amount of time or to only eat certain foods. Most types of screening will also require drinking lots of water before the test.

Recovery after

Cancer Screening

Post - treatment

Once you have gone through the cancer screening, the next part has to do with the aftercare and understanding of what exactly the results mean and other important factors. By understanding this and the options you have with treatment, you'll be less stressed and can more comfortably create a treatment plan with your physician.

What the results mean

When you receive your results, you may have to deal with a lot of medical terms. Thankfully, it usually comes down to simply being positive or negative. If you have negative results, then you are cancer free. If there is a positive or a skewed result, then your doctor will do their best to give you a full picture of your diagnosis. Sometimes, additional screening may be recommended to better ascertain your situation. A treatment plan will also be created and recommended to you, with risks, side effects, and potential results clearly laid out for you.

What are false positives and false negatives?

As mentioned previously, there is a chance that you'll receive a false positive or a false negative result from your cancer screenings. A false positive is when tests indicate the presence of a disease despite the person not actually having it. False positives are usually only determined to be false with further testing, which is why it’s important that multiple tests be conducted.  

On the other hand, a false negative is basically the same thing but in reverse. This is when an individual's screening results come back as saying they are disease free, and they later find out that is not the case.

What treatment options are available following screening?

There are many cancer treatment options, including surgery to remove any masses that are detected. There is also chemotherapy or radiation therapy, depending on the type of cancer. You might also find the doctor offers you other treatments like bone marrow transplants, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or hormone therapy, to name a few. The best treatment plan for you will be devised for you following diagnosis, and may require changes as treatment goes on to ensure the most effective treatment is being applied.

Risks & side effects

Some of these tests can cause potential risks and side effects. Sometimes, certain cancer screening tests may cause bleeding or other health problems. Along with this, repetitive screenings like that of receiving X-rays may result in radiation poisoning, which can even cause cancer in some people. 

That coupled with the risk of false positives and/or negatives, which in turn can cause additional stress, can mitigate the benefits of early detection, increasing side effects to a point where screening may have resulted in worse effects than otherwise. Over-diagnosis sometimes also leads to excessive treatments which may be harmful to the body. 

However, the chances of this happening are very slim, and it’s still generally recommended to receive cancer screening.

FAQs:

Cancer Screening

What makes good cancer screening tests?

A good test is one that has been studied excessively in its execution, with results that show the effects of the screening itself aren’t harmful, and that early diagnosis resulted in much higher rates of survival. 

Should I get a cancer screening test?

Getting a cancer screening test is not necessarily a thing that everybody at every age has to worry about. Though there are contributing factors that will heighten the need for these screening tests, most screening tests shouldn't be needed unless symptoms present later in life.

What is the most common type of cancer screening?

There are a few that are more prominent than others. The most common tests are breast, colorectal, lung, and cervical cancer. Though there are also plenty of other high-level cancer screenings, these are the most common.

Why don't some people get cancer screenings?

There are several reasons why people refuse or don't consider getting cancer screenings. Some of these include the stigma behind cancer. Obviously, a fear-based reaction and misunderstanding of the process can also potentially be an issue. 

Other than that, lack of education, confusion, or awareness of what these screenings are and the individual's history can also play a role.

Why is cancer screening important?

Cancer screening is important to ensure that you are healthy. It is especially key to detect cancer earlier, as it has been found time and time again that cancer in its earlier stages can be treated more effectively with significantly higher chances of survival.

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