Cancer Detection

1 What is a Cancer Detection?

In many cases, the sooner cancer is detected and treated, the better is a person's chance for a full recovery.

The information provided below has been modified from that furnished by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute of the United States of America.

Usually, a doctor can find early cancer during a physical exam or with routine tests, even if a person has no symptoms but a doctor may suggest other exams for people who are at increased risk for cancer based on patient’s age, medical history, and other risk factors. The patient can also learn about self-exams.

Both men and women exams

Skin. The doctor should examine your skin during regular checkups for signs of skin cancer and the person should also check regularly for new growths, sores that do not heal, changes in the size, shape, or color of any moles, or any other changes on the skin and it should report them to the doctor right away.

Colon and rectum. At age 50 both men and women should have a yearly fecal occult blood test because this test is a check for hidden (occult) blood in the stool and cancer of the colon and rectum can cause bleeding. Non-cancerous conditions can also cause bleeding, so having blood in the stool does not necessarily mean a person has cancer so more tests can help doctor to make a diagnosis.

The doctor can also perform a physical and digital exam or the rectum and every 3 to 5 years after age 50 a sigmoidoscopy (the doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a light to look inside the rectum and colon for abnormal areas).

Mouth. A doctor and dentist should examine patient’s mouth at regular visits but also a person can, by looking in a mirror, check inside of the mouth for changes in the color of the lips, gums, tongue, or inner cheeks, and for scabs, cracks, sores, white patches, swelling, or bleeding. Oral exams are especially important for people who use alcohol or tobacco products and for anyone over age 50.

Men exams

Prostate. Men over age 40 should have a yearly digital rectal exam to check the prostate gland for hard or lumpy areas.

Testicles. Testicular cancer occurs most often between ages 15 and 34 and the most of these cancers are found by men themselves, often by doing a testicular self-exam. So if men find a lump or notice another change, such as heaviness, swelling, unusual tenderness, or pain, he should see his doctor immediately. Also, the doctor should examine the testicles as part of regular medical checkups.

Women exams

Breast. Women should ask their doctor about mammograms (x-rays of the breast); breast exams by a doctor or nurse; and breast self-examination (BSE) because doing it every month, women learn what looks and feels normal for their breasts, and they are more likely to find a change. Any changes should be reported to the doctor.

Cervix. Regular pelvic exams and Pap tests are important to detect early cancer of the cervix because, in a pelvic exam, the doctor feels the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum for any change in size or shape. The Pap test should be done every year after they turn 18 or become sexually active.