Thursday, May 10, 2012

To screen or not to screen…………….

There is scientific proof to show that a commitment to a healthy lifestyle may prevent cancer. A few key examples include eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco smoke. However, some individuals may be prone to developing cancer because of an inherited genetic mutations or exposures to toxic environmental factors such as radiation or other unidentified risk factors, particularly if the exposure happens in childhood or infancy. So even if a person takes precautions and makes lifestyle changes to avoid cancer, he or she may already be predisposed to develop the disease later in life. Therefore it is important to undergo screening such that any premalignant disease can be detected early when there is good chance for a cure.

Yet screening is among medicine’s most controversial topics. A major challenge is that it can be difficult to determine if a particular cancer will advance rapidly, progress more slowly, or possibly, not develop at all. In many cases, people who have an indolent cancer or a benign disease will die from other causes before they die from cancer, so detection and treatment are unnecessary and offer no benefit whatsoever. Worse, the treatment could itself cause unnecessary stress, harm, even disfigurement. Slow cancers, by their dawdling nature, frequently have a longer pre-symptomatic period, increasing the likelihood of discovery and improving the chances of treatment. These cancers may be well worth catching. With particularly aggressive cancers, the disease can move so quickly that early detection and treatment cannot help. Another factor influencing outcomes is that the attitude people have about cancer may help decide whether they live or die (and how quickly) from the disease. The goal, then and also a major scientific challenge, in cancer screening is to determine who would benefit the most from early detection. The good news is that scientists are getting closer to identifying specific gene expression signatures that may help predict if cancers will be aggressive or not.

The screening tests now available can indicate susceptibility to various cancers including, breast, colon, lung, prostate, cervical, endometrial, ovarian, pancreatic, and melanoma cancers and can often be performed in clinics or laboratories. While there remains questions about the risk-to-benefit ratio cancer screening, once resolved, the benefits of cancer screening should be clear—as well as the possibility of eradicating cancer.

Read more in Cancer Causes and Controversies- Understanding risk reduction and prevention....