Early detection and treatment are key to cancer survival. In
some cases, weeks and even days can be important in making a diagnosis.
Manual Breast Exam: Women over 20 should practice
monthly breast self-examination (BSE) and have a physician perform an
examination every three years (every year for women over 40).
Mammogram: A baseline mammogram is recommended by age 40; every one to
two years beginning in the 40s; and annually beginning at age 50.
Pelvic Exam: Recommended annually for women over 18 years
of age (and for women under 18 who are, or have been, sexually active).
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA): Men over 50 can begin to
have a blood test for prostate specific antigen, which is usually elevated in
the presence of most prostate cancer. An informed decision with your health
care provider is recommended before screening starts.
Digital Rectal Exam:
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. A digital rectal exam can
begin for men over 40 as part of annual physical checkups. An informed decision
with your health care provider is recommended before screening starts.
Digital Rectal Exam: This brief manual
examination should be performed by a physician every year after age 40.
Sigmoidoscopy/Colonoscopy: A physician checks the
entire colon or the lower colon and rectum through a hollow, flexible, lighted
tube. Recommended every five years after age 50, and more often for individuals
in whom polyps are found.
Pap Test: Cells drawn from the cervix and body of the uterus are
examined under a microscope. An annual pap test is strongly recommended for all
women over 18 (including those who have had a hysterectomy), and for those
under 18 who are, or have been sexually active. After a woman has had three or
more consecutive exams with normal findings, the Pap test may be performed less
frequently on low-risk women at the physician's discretion.
There are other forms of cancer that do not have specific
screening tests. As always, consult your physician as soon as possible if you
have symptomatic changes in your body that concern you.
Biopsy - A definitive test for most cancers. Fluid or cells are
withdrawn from tissue and examined under a microscope, allowing pathologists to
determine if a tumor is benign or malignant. Many biopsies are now done with
the assistance of radiological guidance, such as stereotactic breast biopsies
or ultrasound guided biopsies.
CT Scan - The more sophisticated CT (computerized axial tomography)
scan may show a tumor's location and shape by use of X-ray data reconstructed
into images of cross-sections of the body.
Diagnostic Tests - When a potential problem is identified,
your physician will order a number of diagnostic tests that might include the
Fiber Optic Endoscopy - A hollow, lighted tube
is inserted into the appropriate part of the body, such as the abdomen, upper
gastrointestinal tract, or colon for inspection, photography, biopsy, and/or
Metabolism - The sum total of all chemical processes in the body that
result in growth, energy, waste elimination, and other body functions following
food digestion and the distribution of nutrients in the blood.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - Similar in effect to
the CT scan, MRI uses magnetic fields rather than ionizing radiation to
Nuclear Medicine Scans - These are scans that utilize
ionizing radiation to image specific organs or tumors in different parts of the
PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) - A
type of nuclear medicine imaging measuring important body functions, such as
blood flow, oxygen use, and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors
evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning.
X-Rays - The traditional X-ray remains a valuable tool in determining
the presence and extent of lung and other cancers.
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