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When it comes to routine medical examinations and tests, part of the word "onco" induces slight panic. Most people immediately draw pictures of a terrible death from cancer in their heads and do not want to poke around in a problem that may not exist. But there is a set of measures that not only allow you to detect the disease at an early stage and take action in time, but also make sure that you are healthy and that nothing threatens you. Such a feeling of calmness is provided only by oncological screening. Let's figure out how, to whom, when, and most importantly, why do it.
Pylev Andrey Lvovich oncologist, candidate of medical sciences, chief physician of the federal network of expert oncology clinics "Euroonco"
Why is cancer screening needed?
When embarking on any examination, whether it is about cancer or not, first of all it is worth knowing a few basic things. First, the nerves and panic of just the anticipation of a visit to the doctor do more harm than good. Do not intimidate yourself by looking for and reading on the forums for the symptoms of all diseases known to mankind.
Secondly, no one has died from a comprehensive annual survey. But from ignoring bodily signals and delaying medical examination, this happens and often.
Thirdly, early detection of the disease allows time for effective treatment with a high percentage of complete recovery. If we talk about oncology, the timely detection of a malignant neoplasm gives a fantastic difference in percentage. There are only four stages of cancer development, and if it is detected at the first stage, the chance of cure is about 90-93%. The second already has 70–75%, the third is less than 50%, and the fourth is 15% or less. The more time you have to realize the problem, accept it and start doing something, the more chances of winning.
Screening is a set of measures that allows you to identify negative changes, as they say, on the way. Cancer screening can be a good helper, because it is aimed at examining the entire body and understanding whether something threatens you or not. The good news is that cancer develops relatively slowly and does not immediately show itself as a huge tumor. There is no such thing that you fall asleep healthy, and the next morning a giant bump will grow in the most unpredictable place.
And, conversely, it can develop imperceptibly, gradually spreading throughout the body. The bad news: precisely because pain occurs already in the late stages, early tumors often go unnoticed. It is in order to timely detect cancer that screening is necessary. It is thanks to its existence that there is every chance to live happily ever after - screening is aimed at working with conditionally healthy people and allows you to take control of the disease in an asymptomatic form.
What screening programs are there?
Screenings are different. In our country, research is being done in the following areas: screening for cancer of the stomach, lungs, colon, cervix and breast in women, prostate in men and thyroid gland in both sexes. This is due to the fact that in Russia it is these diseases that are most common and serve as a global cause for concern. If necessary or for special indications, the patient may be referred to other screening programs.
For example, screening for thyroid disorders is indicated in several cases. In women, the first symptom is menstrual irregularities in the absence of pregnancy.
Both ladies and the stronger sex should worry if the lymph nodes or the gland itself suddenly and permanently enlarge.Sudden changes in mood, weight jumps with both rapid weight loss and a set of volumes, insomnia, eating disorders can also be considered alarm bells. Yes, and residents of endemic areas, and there are more than half of them in Russia, are also at risk and must monitor the state of the thyroid gland and any changes in it. Moreover, the screening of the gland is rather modest relative to others - it is just an analysis of venous blood for the hormones TSH, T4, T3, anti-TPO and anti-TG. If violations are found, a visit to an endocrinologist and an ultrasound scan will be required.
With screening for laryngeal cancer, things are a little more complicated. Firstly, because in his risk group there are people from 40 to 60 years old, heavy smokers and drinkers, who are most often used to not feeling sorry for themselves. And secondly, the desire to go and see what is wrong with the throat arises even when the neoplasms cause physical discomfort and the disease is quite neglected. Research on this profile necessarily includes laryngoscopy, biopsy of neoplasms with extended examination of the material, CT of the chest and neck, as well as ultrasound of the lymph nodes and abdominal organs.
If we talk about lung cancer, then they remember about it only on planned fluorography, which forms the basis of screening for this disease. Or already when they begin to cough with a strong production of sputum or blood.
Another type of cancer, which is also called a disease of civilization that does not require complex screening, is colorectal cancer. This is the collective name for three types of cancer - rectum, colon and anal canal.
If we talk about the "popularity" of this disease, then of all types of cancer in terms of the number of patients, this is in third place. At least because in most European cultures, as well as America and Asia, it is this part of the body that is the most taboo, but at the same time carries an enormous burden. Most people not only suffer from overeating and lead a sedentary lifestyle, but also look into the "back door" with great reluctance and only for a very good reason, which means they risk missing alarming symptoms.
Screening for colorectal cancer begins not with treatment, but with taking a medical history of the next of kin and an ultrasound scan once a year for polyps in the stomach or intestines. Ideally, this should happen about ten years before the age when someone in the family suffered from a similar illness. If suddenly there are reasons for concern with age, the detailed screening will already be quite extensive. It will consist of both invasive and non-invasive procedures: enzyme immunoassays, fecal occult blood analysis, DNA tests, CT colonography, colonoscopy and others.
Cervical cancer is one of the first among female diseases. It has two features:
- every year more and more women fall ill with it;
- it is he who has a rather long asymptomatic period, which can go up to 16 years.
It is also preceded by some diseases, such as uterine fibroids, which, if left untreated, can degenerate into cancer. That is, there is more than enough time to take the necessary measures and reduce the risk of developing cancer.
If risk factors are present, screening for cervical cancer should be done once a year for all women over the age of thirty. It is especially important if mothers, sisters or grandmothers had similar diseases. Screening includes the familiar cytology test, HPV test, colposcopy and a scheduled visit to the gynecologist with a visual examination on the chair. As you can see, nothing terrible, unfamiliar or insanely expensive. But at the same time, such screening allows you to track deviations, if any, already at the initial stage and reduce the risk of developing the disease by almost 50%.
The same goes for screening for breast cancer.Screening is very simple: once every six months or a year we make an appointment with a mammologist, undergo a clinical examination for seals, do mammography or ultrasound. In just four simple steps, you can reduce the threat of perhaps the most common and deadly cancer to women by as much as 70%.
Hundreds of thousands of people die from breast cancer every year, and only because they did not attach importance to some small lump in the breast in time or did not take action. And the worst thing here is that many women do not understand that it is on the mammary gland in the early stages of cancer, when cysts or other neoplasms are found, the most aesthetically sparing operations are performed. Now, even with a complete or partial mastectomy (removal of the breast), it is possible to maintain the attractive appearance of both natural and "made" breasts.