When it comes to treating cancer, early detection is absolutely crucial. Screening helps in the detection and cure of many kinds of cancer, which are usually more treatable before outward symptoms begin to manifest. Colonoscopy, mammography, and Pap test and HPV screenings are among the most successful in the prevention of cancer deaths. Treatment may be more complicated and a cure made more difficult to achieve when cancer is found after symptoms have begun to appear. By that time, cancer may have spread to other parts of the body. That’s what makes early detection so important, and screening so effective, in helping doctors treat many cancers.
Many cancer testing regimens have achieved quite high rates of detection. For example, mammography has a detection rate of approximately 87 percent among women of all age groups. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, adenoma detection rates among men through colonoscopy are at about 25 percent. The warning signs of cancer are many and varied, including unusual bleeding, persistent sores, lumps, and indigestion, among others. So early detection and treatment are essential for treatment, quality of life and the achievement of positive treatment outcomes.
Problems with screening
Some individuals confuse screening with treatment, thinking that once they’ve been tested they’re cured of whatever cancer they may have. An article published in a 2015 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that most of the participants in a cancer screening study believed that being screened meant they would benefit in some fashion. Many believed that the mere identification of a lump or nodule meant that their cancer had been rendered harmless. The implications of such misconceptions are significant for the treatment of cancer, and indicate an ongoing need for better communication and education among the general public.
Many patients are at a loss when it comes to questioning their doctor about cancer and cancer treatment, particularly in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. It’s important to understand not only the scope of their condition but also the extent of the treatment they’re facing, their involvement in treatment, their rights as patients, and how treatment will affect them in their daily lives. Questions should include what treatment options are available based on their condition, what side effects might occur, how side effects will be managed, the success rate of the proposed treatment, and how treatment may impact the patient’s quality of life.
The nature, prevalence and virulence of different forms of cancer determine when and how screenings should be done. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 20 perform regular breast self examinations, and that mammographies be done every year beginning at age 40. Pap and HPV tests should be performed on women beginning at age 21; every five years for those between 30 and 65. For men, annual colonoscopies should be done every 10 years beginning at age 50, and prostate check-ups should be performed every four years.
Some screenings involve difficulties and complications that can discourage men and women from following through as recommended by the American Cancer Society and other leading health care agencies. Two out of 125 colonoscopy patients experience complications, a significant enough statistic that doctors continue to seek new and better ways to make the procedure safe for all patients. Many men are hesitant to have their prostate examined, despite the fact that it can easily be done during a regular doctor’s examination, considering it an affront to their masculinity.
Early detection is essential for the identification and treatment of many forms of cancer. And while public awareness of screening procedures and of their importance has grown in recent years, many people remain hesitant to have testing done. This despite the fact that detection makes a difference in treatment outcomes.