Cancer in India is poised to breach the ‘one million patients a year’ mark and of those diagnosed
annually, only 30% have been statistically proven to beat the disease. With the incidence rate
going up, cancer is an insidious enemy that needs to be met head on.
The silver lining is that cancer is effectively countered if detected early; empirical evidence from
across the world reinforces this finding. The incidence of cancerous cells is always contained
at the early stage, and this increases the efficacy of treatment methods immensely.
Universally, early detection of cancer is a function of two key parameters – the level of education
about the symptoms of cancer, and the prevalence of cancer screenings.
Cancer screening involves efforts to detect pre-malignant conditions in the body (i.e. conditions
which may proceed to cancer if not treated). It also involves detecting cancers after it has
formed, but before any noticeable symptoms appear (Unlike diagnostic efforts prompted by symptoms
and medical signs). This may involve physical examination, blood or urine tests or medical imaging.
Here are the types of tests for different cancers:
- Breast Cancer screening for all women above the age of 30 years with (Clinical Breast Examination,
Self Breast Examination and Mammography for women above 50 years of age)
- Cervical Cancer screening in women who are sexually active. Precancerous changes in the cervix
often do not cause any signs or symptoms. Pap smear test and human papilloma virus testing
are done to screen for Cervical Cancer
- Oral Cancer screening in tobacco users.
- Colonoscopy/ sigmoidoscopy for Screening for Colorectal Cancer
- Low dose CT Scan to screen for Lung Cancer in those who are at high risk of Lung Cancer:
- Age 50 - 74yrs
- Have a history of heavy smoking -30 packs/ year*
- Are still smoking or have quit in last 15yrs
- *(30 packs/ year means one packet of cigarettes/day for 30 years or 2 packet/day for
- Prostate specific antigen test is done to detect Prostate Cancer at an early stage. However it
is no longer recommended as a screening test as it leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment
and has little effect on Prostate Cancer deaths.
How often should you screen for Cancer?
- Breast Cancer screening guidelines for Women
Age-wise distinction for tests:-
- 20-40 yrs
- Clinical breast examination every 3 years
- Clinical breast examination every year
- Mammography yearly till 50 yrs age
Women at increased risk of Breast Cancer
- Age-wise distinction for tests:
In these women mammography should start at 35 yrs
- Women who have one or more blood relations who have had breast cancer
- Women who have a number of blood relatives who have had ovarian cancer
and breast cancer
- Women who have had radiation to the chest wall