Understanding one's prostate cancer treatment options is a vital part of easing anxiety about the diagnosis and making informed care decisions. Those newly diagnosed must sort through a lot of information; our oncology team is here to help. This brief overview of how prostate cancer treatment works aims to help patients make sense of their…
The Importance of Oncology Screenings in Early Detection
Oncology is the branch of medicine dedicated to studying and treating cancer. It plays an essential role in safeguarding people's health. One of its key components is early detection through preventative cancer screenings. These screenings can help find cancer before symptoms appear, making it easier to treat.
The importance of oncology screenings
Oncology screenings refer to a range of diagnostic tests and procedures designed to identify cancer at its earliest stages. These screenings are not only valuable for those with a family history of cancer but also for the general population. While they are not an official diagnosis for cancer, they aim to detect if a patient has or is at an increased risk of having cancer before it can spread. Once abnormal tissue or cancer grows and spreads, it can make it harder to treat or cure. In contrast, an early cancer diagnosis often results in more treatment options, less invasive procedures, and an improved treatment outcome.
Types of oncology screenings
There are various types of oncology screenings. The oncologist will recommend a screening for the type of cancer they suspect the patient has. A few of the tests include:
- Physical exam and history: This screening is where the oncologist checks the patient's general health, such as signs of disease (lumps or abnormal tissue). The patient will also inform the doctor about their lifestyle habits, past illnesses, and treatments.
- Laboratory tests: These screenings are medical procedures that test tissue, blood, or urine samples.
- Imaging procedures: Imaging screenings inform the oncologist of what is going on in the patient's body. These screenings include mammography, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic imaging (MRI) scan.
- Genetic testing: This type of screening tests cells or tissue to look for changes in genes or chromosomes, which may indicate a person has or is at risk for having a specific disease or condition.
Breast cancer screenings
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) in the United States. It typically affects women and AFAB individuals age 40 and older. Breast cancer screenings, or mammograms, are the most effective way to find breast cancer in its early stages. They can find breast cancer tumors before they cause symptoms or be found during a regular breast examination. Finding breast cancer early lowers the risk of the cancer worsening or dying from the condition. Healthcare providers recommend mammograms every year or two years.
Prostate cancer screenings
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death among men and those assigned male at birth (AMAB). Male patients aged 45 and older should undergo an annual digital rectal examination, where a healthcare provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate and detect any abnormalities. Additionally, there is a blood test and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test available that can detect the patient's having or increased chance of developing prostate cancer.
Cervical cancer screenings
According to research by the National Cancer Insitute (NCI), the use of cervical cancer screenings (Pap smears) has resulted in fewer female patients being diagnosed or dying of the condition. Screenings should begin when the patient turns 21, having a Pap smear test every three years. After the age of 30, female patients should undergo Pap smear tests and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests every five years at the same appointment, as HPV is a cervical cancer risk factor. Those who do not undergo HPV testing should continue to have a Pap smear every three years.
Colorectal cancer screenings
The American Cancer Society estimates that there were 106,670 new cases of colorectal (colon) cancer in the United States in 2023, making it the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both male and female patients. Colon cancer screenings can detect and prevent this very treatable condition from spreading. Individuals over 45 should have regular screenings, including fecal tests, a sigmoidoscopy, and a colonoscopy.
Ideal candidates for oncology screenings
It is important to get screened for cancer as recommended, such as a pap smear beginning at the age of 21 or a prostate exam beginning at the age of 45. However, individuals with a higher cancer risk factor — something that increases the chance of getting cancer — may need to be screened more often at an earlier age than the general population. These individuals may include:
- A personal history of having cancer
- A family history of cancer
- Certain gene mutations linked to cancer
- Exposure to cancer-causing agents (i.e., tobacco smoke)
- An abnormal blood clot
- Older age
Not everyone with one or more risk factors will develop cancer, and some with no known risk factors can develop cancer.
Oncology screenings can protect your health
While oncology screenings are not an official diagnosis of cancer, these tests provide an effective way to detect cancer in its early stages and prevent it from spreading. If you have noticed abnormal tissue or have an increased risk of developing cancer, the Lindenberg Cancer & Hematology Center team is here to support you. Schedule a consultation today.
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