Health issues: cancer screening can save lives

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A 2007 photo by Dr. Ron Bridges, Head, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Calgary, with colon screening equipment (an illuminated "colonoscope" that rises into the rectum).

Carlos Amat / Postmedia network

In my last column I described a recent study which concluded that four out of 10 cancers are preventable.

In addition to taking the necessary preventive precautions, screening for the first signs of cancer is also important. If the cancer is discovered early, there is a better chance of successful treatment.

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Screening can help detect certain types of cancer before they can cause symptoms. In this way, the chances of controlling or even curing cancer are greater.

Some of the cancers that can be detected through screening include:

  • Prostate cancer: It is among the most common cancers in men and usually has no specific early symptoms. However, a blood test called 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 probability of prostate cancer and requires more testing. Every situation is different, so men should talk to their doctor to see which specific screening tests are needed in addition to regular routine physical exams;
  • Breast cancer: A mammogram, which is a special type of X-ray, can detect cancerous nodules in the breast early so that the possibility of a cure is high;
  • Colorectal cancer: Colorectal cancer or large intestine usually has no symptoms until it has spread. An early sign of this tumor is the presence of small amounts of blood in the stool. This is called occult blood, as it cannot be seen. However, a specific test called a faecal occult blood test can determine whether the stools contain blood. In this case, further tests can be performed. In people over the age of 50 or in people with a family history of colon cancer, a test called colonoscopy may also be performed;
  • Cervical cancer: A Pap test is a test that takes samples from a female cervix, which is part of the uterus. This sample is examined under a microscope to detect abnormal cancer cells early;
  • Testicular cancer: This is the leading cause of cancer in young men and can be cured if caught early. The best way to find out is to know your body and talk to your doctor about any changes; is,
  • Skin cancer: Prevention is best achieved by avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, preventing sunburn and using sun protection. However, if you notice changes on the skin or on a mole, ask for medical assistance.

Screening can save lives. Then talk to your doctor to develop an individual screening plan that's right for you.

Ultimately, your chances of developing cancer depend in part on risk factors, such as age, family history, gender and lifestyle. While the age and family history cannot be changed, other risk factors for lifestyle choices are under your control.

To help reduce the risk:

  • Eat well and be active;
  • Wear sun clothes and / or clothing suitable for the sun, headgear;
  • Stay away from tobacco and other toxins;
  • Limit alcohol intake; is,

Know your body and report any unusual changes to your doctor.

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