Oncology diagnosis – why it is so important?
Cancer is a disease which kills about 100 thousand people in Poland every year, while in the world 10 million. Cancer is a silent killer growing in our body, and the best defense against it is early detection. That is why cancer prevention means not only avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco and alcohol or a proper diet, but also performing appropriate examinations. How oncological diagnosis looks like? We suggest in this article.
When is it worth starting preventive tests for cancer??
The best chance of curing cancer is if it is found early, before it spreads to other organs. This is why diagnostics is so important. At a young age it should be based on breast self-examination in women, which should be done regularly every few months and cytology done once a year. Men should regularly check their testicles for any worrying changes. Have blood tests and a chest X-ray once every few years. Do not forget to check the appearance of skin lesions. As you get older, i.e. past the age of 40, the number of check-ups and their frequency will increase. After 50 years of age, it is recommended to have colonoscopy once every few years, which allows early detection of colon cancer, additionally women are recommended to have mammography. People who have an increased risk of developing cancer should choose to have cancer markers done. If you have discovered alarming changes in your breasts, you should immediately contact the oncological clinic in order to have your tumors examined. You can do it within the framework of the National Health Fund, but the queues and waiting time are getting longer and longer. So take advantage of the help of specialists at the Lower Silesia Centre of Gynaecology and Family Health https://www.dcg.wroclaw.en/poradnia-onkologiczna.html.
Imaging diagnostics in cancer prevention
Modern technological solutions used in medicine today make it possible to perform a number of non-invasive imaging tests.
Chest X-ray is the oldest such method. Allows examination of the state of bones and organs located in the chest area. It is the easiest way to detect cancerous changes in the lungs.
One of the most widespread examinations nowadays is ultrasound. An ultrasound scanner allows you to look closely at soft tissues and detect changes in the abdomen, genitourinary organs, and thyroid gland. Specially constructed probes of ultrasound apparatuses, also allow for a thorough assessment of a woman’s reproductive organs, the so called “breast biopsy”. Vaginal ultrasound, or analysis of lesions in the terminal region – transrectal ultrasound.
Much greater accuracy, however, is demonstrated by computed tomography, which allows “scanning” the entire body, or selected parts of it in order to detect cancerous changes in it. The device takes a large number of X-rays of the indicated area, combining them into one coherent image. The use of modern computer equipment allows for an increasingly accurate view of the internal organs.
MRI is used primarily to detect changes within the central nervous system. These are mainly different types of tumors in the brain.
Tumor markers – detection of particular types of cancer
Tumor markers are various biochemical substances such as antigens, proteins, hormones or enzymes produced by tumor cells. Their concentration increases if cancer develops in the body. This is another non-invasive method for early detection of this dangerous disease. The most commonly determined markers include:
CEA – carcinoembryonic antigen, a positive result may indicate colon cancer.
AFP – Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein that appears in the blood physiologically during pregnancy, but also in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Beta-hCG – chorionic gonadotropin – is another hormone produced during pregnancy, but it is found in neoplastic lesions such as germ cell tumors, neuroblastoma and gestational trophoblastic disease.
PSA – a specific steroidal antigen, the level of which is analyzed when prostate cancer is suspected.
Ca-125. – Protein analyzed in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
CA-19.9. – This protein is tested for suspected pancreatic cancer and bile duct cancers.
It is important to remember that a change in the levels of tumour markers is not a confirmation that cancer is present, they can also fluctuate as a result of other factors. What is more, its absence does not mean that there are no cancerous changes in the body. That is why it is so important to analyze all the results properly.
Biopsies in oncological diagnostics
If cancerous changes are found in the body, a biopsy is necessary. Biopsy is a specialized test that involves taking biological material from the affected area for analysis. Careful examination of the cells taken makes it possible to assess the type of cancer, which is essential for choosing the right therapy. There are 3 main types of biopsies:
Fine needle biopsy – enables collection of cells from the affected tissue with a thin, long needle under USG guidance. During the puncture the cells are aspirated together with intercellular fluid. The resulting material is then subjected to cytological analysis. Puncture with a thin needle is not painful, so the procedure does not require anesthesia, moreover, there are no complications.
Thick-needle biopsy – also involves the insertion of a needle into the affected tissue to collect material. In this case, however, the needle is thicker, and a fragment of the changed tissue or organ is taken for analysis. The test is performed under local anesthesia under ultrasound guidance. The resulting material is subjected to histopathological evaluation.
Open surgical biopsy – is used to excise the entire lesion with a margin of healthy tissue. It is often used in cases of skin cancer, which after excision are subjected to histopathological examination. Although invasive, it is in many cases the most effective method.