The incidence of cancer is increasing in India and thus, it’s the need of the hour to step up cancer awareness amongst the people. Cancer screening refers to detecting cancer in the body before the appearance of symptoms. It can be done by:
- Clinical examination by physician
- Blood tests
- Medical imaging tests.
Many lives can be saved by early detection and treatment. Therefore, it is important that every individual knows how and when to be screened for common cancers.
Some people have a strong family history of cancer that is many persons in their family have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer. These people require frequent screening for that specific cancer. However, those without a strong family history of cancer also must be aware of the importance of timely cancer screening.
Brief information on the screening for common cancers is provided below.
Although both men and women can be diagnosed with breast cancer, only women are recommended to undergo routine screening as the prevalence of breast cancer is far less in men. Breast cancer screening can be done by breast self-examination, clinical examination, and mammograms.
For women aged between 45 to 54 years, annual screening with mammograms is recommended. Mammograms can be scheduled every other year after the age of 55 years.
It has been found to be associated with Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. It can be easily prevented with the help of the HPV vaccine and simple screening tests. The two commonly performed screening tests are the Pap test and the HPV test. The Pap test detects abnormal cells in the cervix which can turn into cancer cells. The HPV test detects the HPV infection that can cause such changes in the cells.
In women aged between 21 to 29 years, a Pap test is recommended every three years. A Pap test only (every three years), an HPV test only (every five years), or co-testing with a PAP test and HPV test (every five years) can be done in women aged between 30 and 65 years. Women above 65 years need not be screened if they had normal screening test results for several years.
Screening tests such as Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests are available but there is no consensus as to whether or not screening for prostate cancer is beneficial. Men above 50 years should consult with their physician regarding prostate cancer screening suitability in their respective cases.
It almost always develops from the precancerous polyps (abnormal growth) in the colon or rectum. Both men and women aged between 50-75 years should undergo colorectal cancer screening at regular intervals. However, people with a family history of colorectal cancer and those with certain genetic diseases/syndromes or inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) need to be screened earlier than 50 years.
Individuals should consult their physicians for when to begin screening, how frequently to get screened, and which screening test is right for them. Screening tests include stool tests and imaging tests like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
An annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) of the chest is recommended for people who have a history of heavy smoking, and smoke now or have quit smoking within the past 15 years, and are between 55 and 80 years of age.
Oral (mouth) cancer
It is among the top cancers in India due to the rampant use of chewing tobacco and smoking. A regular clinical examination to check for red or white patches in the mouth and for lumps in the mouth and throat is recommended.
Dr Prashant Mehta is a well-known and experienced medical oncologist (cancer specialist). He has done his DM-Oncology from AIIMS, Delhi with European certificate in Medical Oncology and a Fellowship in Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) from Fred Hutch, Seattle, USA. He is currently Senior Consultant and Unit Head Medical Oncology, Hematoncology & Bone Marrow Transplant at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad, Haryana. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO). His special interests include Lung Cancer, Breast cancer, Multiple Myeloma, Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Precision Oncology, Molecular Oncology and Targeted Cancer Therapy.
Dr Prashant is also an accomplished singer and a popular musician.