There is no crystal ball when it comes to cancer detection. But researchers are always studying ways to detect cancer sooner, predicting a person’s chances of developing cancer and developing better treatments based on a person’s risks.
Some tests including genetic testing and full-body scans already exist. But much is still unknown.
However, even without definitive tests, you can be your own best advocate by knowing and listening to your body, understanding your personal and familial risks, following screening guidelines, seeking help if something does not feel right and asking for a second opinion if you have any questions about any diagnosis.
Let us look at some early detection options currently available.
Genetic Testing for Cancer
Right now, genetic testing is one of the best ways doctors can assess a patient’s risk for developing cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, these tests look for certain genetic mutations, which could help predict a person’s risk of cancer.
These tests can help a person with a strong hereditary risk of cancer to see if they may have an inherited mutation, and then that person can take steps to lower his or her risk. Testing for inherited mutations can help those at risk for breast cancer, pancreatic, ovarian, and other cancers. It can be useful for family members who had cancer at a younger age than what is typical for that type of cancer.
Genetic testing can also help those diagnosed with cancer to see if a genetic mutation may have been a reason for the cancer. And it might help when it comes to treatment options or assessing the risk of developing other types of cancer.
If you are interested in genetic testing, talk to your doctor, or seek a genetic counselor to see if testing is right for you. It is typically a blood test but can also be a saliva test.
Full-Body Scans for Cancer
Getting a full-body scan – either with an MRI or a CT scan — may seem like a good idea for some individuals at risk for cancer. But according to MD Anderson Cancer Center, no data exists to support the average person getting one, especially if that person has no increased personal risk of cancer or any symptoms.
However, for those with certain conditions, including multiple myeloma, blood cancer, or LiFraumeni syndrome, a rare genetic mutation that increases the risk of multiple cancers over a patient’s lifetime, a full-body scan could be beneficial.
Yet for many people, full-body scans can cause anxiety. They can also lead to incidental findings like benign liver tumors or thyroid nodules, which could lead to more testing, which in some cases could prove to be costly, stressful, or unfruitful.
According to a Healthline article, full-body scans can miss small or hidden tumors and lead to a false sense of security whereby a person may ignore symptoms because the full-body scan showed nothing cancerous. They are also typically not covered by insurance and can range from $500 to several thousand dollars.
For some individuals, even with an incidental or benign finding — the power of knowing what is going on inside of their bodies may give them the feeling of being proactive. So, it can be a personal preference as well.
And while researchers race to find new ways to detect cancer sooner, there are things you can do for yourself to be proactive in your cancer detection according to the American Cancer Society, including routine screenings.
Lung Cancer: The recommendations for lung cancer screenings are low-dose CT scans for those between 50 and 80 who smoke or have a 20-year history of smoking.
Breast Cancer: Women older than 40 should begin annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. Those older than 55 should talk to their doctors about continuing annual mammograms or switching to every other year. Of course, if you have any risk factors, start screening sooner or talk to your doctor for guidance. And all women should perform monthly self-breast exams. If you feel something or see something that is not normal, go to your doctor right away.
Prostate Cancer: If you have a family history of prostate cancer or if you are African American, screening should begin at age 40 according to the guidelines from the Prostate Cancer Foundation. If you do not fall into one of those categories, screening can start at age 45. African American men, those of Scandinavian descent and anyone with a family history of prostate cancer are at increased risks of developing prostate cancer. So, talk to your doctor about prostate health.
Colon or Rectal Cancer: Starting at age 45, individuals should start regular screenings, which may include a stool-based test or a colonoscopy. Doctors recommend continuing regular screenings until the age of 75, and then it is recommended to talk to your doctor about when to get screened. Anyone with a family history should start screening sooner and speak with his or her doctor.
Cervical Cancer: Screening should start at 25 unless your doctor suggests otherwise. Women between 25 and 65 should get a primary HPV (human papillomavirus) test every five years. And those vaccinated for HPV should still do screenings.
Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
If you or your loved one are diagnosed with cancer that may require radiation as a treatment, the experts at the CyberKnife Center of Miami – a premier cancer treatment center in South Florida – are here to help.
CyberKnife is a state-of-the art, noninvasive radiation treatment system that can successfully treat cancers of the prostate, lungs, spine, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lymph nodes and brain as well as other metastatic cancers.
CyberKnife has been used for more than two decades and has been studied in hundreds of clinical trials. It has helped hundreds of thousands of patients – even patients who were told they could not have more radiation, or their tumors were inoperable.
CyberKnife offers excellent tumor control, lower risk of damage to healthy tissue, a better quality of life during treatment and fewer treatments than with traditional radiation. Plus, most parts of the body that have been treated with radiation before can be retreated with CyberKnife.
Cancer Treatment Center Miami
CyberKnife Miami opened its doors 20 years ago and was the first CyberKnife center to open in the Southeast.
Since that time, we have successfully treated thousands of patients from South Florida and around the world.
If you are interested in learning more about CyberKnife Miami call us at 305-279-2900 or go to our website www.cyberknifemiami.com.