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Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives

Cancer is one of the major health problems today. Recovery rates in cancer through early diagnosis as well as developing technology and medical procedures are about 55 to 66 percent in developed countries.  Anadolu Medical Center Hematologic Oncologist / Medical Oncologist Prof. Dr. Necdet Uskent tells about the screening methods which are the most significant aspect in early diagnosis of the cancer.

Cancer ranks the second most common cause of death worldwide. Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancers cause more deaths when compared with other cancer types every year. Different cancer types are common among women and men. Cancer types which cause high mortality in women are breast cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, colo-rectal cancers and cervical cancer. Lung cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, colo-rectal cancers and esophagus cancer are more common in men.

Prof. Dr. Necdet Üskent, Hematologic Oncologist/Medical Oncologist at Anadolu Medical Center, states that early diagnosis in cancer saves lives and says: “A complete recovery is achieved in cancer diseases by 55 to 60% through early diagnosis in developed countries. Although there are significant improvements in our country through trained labor force, new technologies and good practices, this rate is much lower. The most significant difference between our country and developed countries is the detection of the disease at later stages.  To create awareness on getting habits for early diagnosis by public education would change the present situation significantly.

30% of the cancer-related deaths is caused by behaviors which could be changed.

30 percent of the cancer-related deaths are caused by 5 behavioral factors that could be changed; such as high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, less physical activity, smoking and alcohol use.  Smoking accounts for 22 percent of global cancer-related deaths, whereas it is the primary risk factor for lung cancer deaths with 71%. It is predicted that cancer-related deaths would be about 13.1 million per year in 2030 worldwide.

Periodic screening is recommended for early diagnosis of cancer. Prof. Uskent says that cancer screening should stand out for cancers where early diagnosis is effective on the control of the disease and survival; Prof.  Uskent also draws attention to the screening methods used for different types of cancer:

Breast cancer screening: The most important method for early diagnosis of breast cancer is mammography. Studies conducted show that death cases decrease by 20 to 30% through annual mammography scans and self-examinations for women over 50 years of age.  If breast cancer was observed in first degree relatives in early-ages, mammographic scans should be started during 30 to 35 years of age along with a breast ultrasound.  Mammography should be repeated every year.

Cervix cancer: All women should have a Pap smear test every year starting from being sexually active. HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the most important etiological factor known for cervix cancer. For those who had 3 subsequent normal test results, scans may be performed every 2 to 3 years until 30 years of age.  Scans are stopped at 70 years of age. It is the most common screening test because it is easy to apply, affordable and painless.

Colorectal cancer: Detection of occult blood in the stool is the most affordable and easiest method to scan for colorectal cancer.  A 30% decrease may be obtained in colorectal cancer-related deaths with this yearly test.  However, risk of false positive result is high. Only 2 to 10% of the cases with positive occult blood in the stool are diagnosed with cancer. Benign polyps are detected in 20 to 30 % of the cases. Those who have colon or rectum cancer history in first degree relatives, patients with ulcerative cholitis, patients previously had adenomatous polyps should have colonocscopy every year and healthy individuals should have colonoscopy every 3 to 5 years after 50 years of age.

Prostate cancer: The most commonly recommended screening tests for prostate cancer are; analysis of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and rectal examination. Since PSA is a simple blood test to perform, prostate cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer type per year in Europe and USA. Many prostate cancer cases without symptoms may be diagnosed earlier through PSA test. However, most of these cases do not require any treatment with no life threatening, whereas aggressive cancer types are less likely to be treated when diagnosed.

Ovarian cancer: Suggested screening tests for ovarian cancer is pelvic examination, transvaginal ultrasound and serum Ca-125 tests. Pelvic examination is not sensitive enough that may decrease death rates due to ovarian cancers. Scientific studies conducted for transvaginal ultrasound and Ca-125 tests are not concluded yet.

Lung cancer: Chest x-ray, computed tomography and phlegm cytology are used for early diagnosis. Although spiral CTs take the diagnosis to earlier stages, effects on survival due to false positive findings are controversial.

Stomach and esophagus cancer: Scientific studies showed that the treatment applied for Helicobacter pyloris and Helicobacter felis bacteria prevents development of cancer in stomach cancers and lymphomas. Early detection and treatment of Barrett Esophagus which appears after reflux esophagitis (endoscopically, surgically or photodynamically) may prevent the development of at least some esophageal cancer cases.


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