Health Matters by Dr.Paul: Cancer Screening Can Save Lives
In Canada, 1 out of every 4 people will develop cancer which is the leading cause of death responsible for 30% of all deaths. The good news is that at least half of all cancers can be prevented, and cancer that is discovered early has a better chance of successful treatment. That’s why cancer screening is important. Screening can help detect certain types of cancer before they cause symptoms. In this way, the chances of controlling or even curing the cancer are greater. Some of the cancers that can be detected through screening include:
- Prostate cancer which is among the most common cancer in men, does not usually have any specific early symptoms. However, a blood test called the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) can be taken to detect prostate cancer. When the PSA level is higher than normal this indicates that there is a high chance of prostate cancer and requires more tests. Each situation is different, so men should speak to their doctor to see what specific screening tests are needed in addition to regular routine physical examinations.
- Breast cancer: A mammogram, which is a special type of X-ray, can detect cancerous lumps in the breast early on so that the chance of a cure is high.
- Colorectal cancer: Colorectal or large intestine cancer usually has no symptoms, until it has spread. An early sign of this cancer is the presence of small amounts of blood in the stool. This is called occult blood, as it cannot be seen. However specific test called fecal occult blood test can determine if the stool has blood in it. If so, further tests can be done. In persons over 50 years of age, or in persons with a family history of colon cancer, a test called a colonoscopy can also be performed.
- Cervical cancer: A Pap smear is a test that takes samples from a women’s cervix, which is part of the uterus. This sample is examined under a microscope to detect abnormal cancer cells early on.
- Testicular cancer: This is the leading cause of cancer in young men and can be cured if detected early. The best way to detect it is to know your body and speak to your doctor about any change.
- Skin cancer: Prevention is best achieved by avoiding prolonged exposures to the sun, preventing sunburns and by using sunscreen. However if you notice any change on your skin or on a skin mole, seek medical attention.
Screening can save lives. So talk to your health care professional to develop an individual screening plan that’s right for you. On a final note, your chances of developing cancer depend in part on risk factors, such as age, family history, gender and lifestyle. While age and family history can’t be changed, other “lifestyle choice” risk factors are within your control. To help reduce your risk:
- Eat well and be active.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Stay away from tobacco and other toxins.
- Know your body and report any unusual changes to your doctor.